Hong Kong health officials attacks on e-cigarettes one-sided

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 8:26pm

I refer to the report, “Vaping and e-cigarettes in Hong Kong: a dangerous gateway or a safe tool for quitting smoking?” (July 26). I feel deeply disappointed with the way our government, health academics and the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) have handled the emergence of e-cigarettes.

University College London, Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians have conducted studies that conclude that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking, and there is a very low risk associated with their long-term use. But COSH, on which the Hong Kong government relies for tobacco control advice, seems determined to eradicate any new tobacco products and propose a blanket ban on e-cigarettes.

What we, as citizens, expect of COSH and our health officials is that they act like their counterparts, such as Public Health England and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which are willing to make practical changes that would yield positive results. They should take a serious look at scientific evidence around the world about the safety of e-cigarettes and formulate public policies based on scientific evidence and after careful consideration. But what we see them doing instead is scaremongering and choosing to present one-sided information and data, branding e-cigarettes as evil innovations that are even worse than traditional cigarettes.

COSH spares no effort to impose the most stringent controls possible on any tobacco-related products, regardless of their potential benefits. On its website, it has selectively cited research studies on e-cigarettes, and ignored calls for moderate control of vaping as practised in countries like the UK and the US. Such palpable bias undermines COSH’s credibility and the effectiveness of efforts to reduce the smoking prevalence rate.

The story of RTHK presenter Peter King shows that e-cigarettes can achieve what other tobacco control measures cannot – helping long-time smokers kick the habit.

In addition to e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products that are said to be less harmful to health are being legally sold in Japan and South Korea.

I hope the government and COSH will return to science and reason when it comes to regulation of tobacco innovations. Demonising these innovations offers no help to smokers or non-smokers.

Rosamund Lee, Yuen Long