If Hong Kong’s tobacco users can’t quit, they must get safer choices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 6:18pm

Asia is home to 60 per cent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers. Globally, millions of smokers are switching like never before to smoke-free alternatives, like heated tobacco products or e-cigarettes. These disruptive products eliminate the combustion and the smoke and, by doing so, significantly reduce levels of harmful chemicals, while still delivering the nicotine and ritual that millions seek.

Public Health England in the UK, the Food and Drug Administration in the US, and many other regulators and authorities worldwide acknowledge that smoke-free products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products could offer a less harmful alternative to cigarettes. In the Asia-Pacific, Japan, South Korea, and now New Zealand are giving access to such alternatives and the uptake is impressive.

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In Hong Kong, vapers and heated tobacco users are starting to become commonplace. However, Hong Kong has yet to make up its mind on smoke-free products, despite calls for change.

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In contrast, smokers in Japan and Korea are switching in their millions and this is having an unprecedented impact in lowering otherwise-stagnating smoking rates.

On this year’s World No Tobacco Day, smokers should quit entirely, that’s obviously the best option. But, if they choose to continue using nicotine, and if better alternatives are legally available, then they should make the switch.

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We’re clearly at an exciting juncture – regulators, health professionals, smokers and vapers, as well as manufacturers of smoke-free products, have a real opportunity to be aligned like never before. With countries already delivering on their smoke-free ambitions, the incentive is there for Asian lawmakers to support their smokers, many of whom would like to create a better life for themselves and for those around them.

Paul Riley, president, East Asia and Australia, Philip Morris Asia Ltd