Letters to the Editor, August 29, 2017
Blinkered approach to tobacco in city
The Hong Kong government and local smokers seem to be oblivious of new tobacco control measures announced by the UK and the US governments recently. These may have a major impact on the future of tobacco control globally.
In July, the UK’s Department of Health published a five-year Tobacco Control Plan for England, highlighting the increasing evidence that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than smoking tobacco. It also says the government will support consumers stopping smoking and using less harmful alternatives.
Also in July, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a comprehensive plan that seeks to reduce smoking-related diseases and deaths by proposing to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes and, as FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, to “encourage development of innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than combustible cigarettes”.
The two governments have decided to adopt policies that recognise the potential benefits of cigarette alternatives, such as heat-not-burn products.
More Hong Kong smokers are switching to these products, and asking that they be made available in the city.
Despite all this, it is difficult to expect the government, and even the public, to be open-minded when it comes to introducing tobacco innovations.
After decades of public education about the danger of smoking, there are still a lot of smokers and non-smokers who do not even understand why smoking is harmful.
Although nicotine in tobacco is addictive, it does not cause smoking-related diseases like cancer. The toxins and carcinogens emitted from the smoke when a cigarette is burning are what make smoking harmful. Yet, a study published by the FDA’s Centre for Tobacco Products in March has found that about 75 per cent of American adults did not understand the relationship between nicotine and cancer, or incorrectly believed that nicotine caused cancer. Most Hong Kong people share this misunderstanding.
This general lack of knowledge about what exactly makes cigarettes unhealthy could prevent smokers from making right choices, and policymakers from making right decisions – for instance, as to whether they should remove barriers to the sales of innovative cigarette alternatives with fewer health risks.
It is reasonable to expect our policymakers to base their decisions on facts. We hope they will take a serious look at the new tobacco control measures in other developed countries, and make efforts to correct general misconceptions about smoking.
Robert Tong, Ma Wan
More storms are caused by climate change
The deaths and injuries in the region caused by Typhoon Hato highlighted the problems of more extreme weather caused by climate change.
Sadly, we will see more injuries and deaths, and destruction of property causing economic losses, in the communities hit by these severe storms.
Citizens need to be aware of the effects of climate change and we can all do our bit to cut back on energy use in the home, for example, by using a fan instead of an air conditioner. We should cut back on the use of cars and recycle as much as possible.
If everybody makes the effort, we can make a difference and reduce the effects of climate change.
Icy Wong Wing-lam, Tseung Kwan O
All citizens should aim for greener lives
Hurricane Harvey has caused a great deal of destruction in the US, especially in Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, with a rising death toll and thousands having to be evacuated from their homes.
The world must accept that we are seeing more typhoons, and human behaviour has contributed to this.
We are paying the price for hurting the environment for decades, through the huge volumes of waste we generate and the excessive carbon emissions causing global warming.
Climate experts say we have to actively reduce carbon. In other words, we need to start caring about and protecting the Earth. And this can start at home. For example, more of us can use energy-saving LED lights instead of traditional filament light bulbs.
If more families make this change, they can really help the environment.
Vanessa Ip, Kwun Tong
High time we got tough on school bullies
Bullying remains a big problem in many societies, including Hong Kong.
Bullying used to be mainly in the form of physical abuse but, with new technology, there is now the phenomenon of cyberbullying which puts psychological pressure on the victims. For some youngsters, it gets so bad that they take their own lives.
I think the education system in the city does not help. Schools are not doing enough to deal with bullying and its consequences. It is not enough for students to be told in class that bullying is wrong. Further action must be taken.
The government must recognise that this is a serious problem. Changes need to be made to the education system, including tougher punishments for young people who are found guilty of bullying in any form.
Laurent Li, Tiu Keng Leng