Why Hong Kong should get tough on e-cigarettes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2018, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2018, 9:56pm

I write in response to Andrew da Roza’s letter, “Hong Kong needs to clear the air on e-cigarettes for the sake of its smokers” (July 11), concerning the proposed regulation of e-cigarettes in Hong Kong.

I do not fully agree with Mr da Roza’s argument that e-cigarettes should get a more lenient treatment than traditional cigarettes.

He mentions that electronic cigarettes inflict less harm on smokers than conventional ones. However, studies have shown that e-cigarettes can be just as addictive. We all know that tobacco is addictive because of nicotine. In fact, e-cigarettes also contain nicotine, and the flavoured ones are popular with younger smokers. Scientists cited by the Chemical Research in Toxicology journal said e-cigarettes may even contain the most addictive form of nicotine.

Secondly, these devices can have an impact on health. Da Roza says that e-cigarettes are materially safer than heat-not-burn tobacco products. But according to the Environment Science and Technology journal, 31 harmful chemical compounds have been found in e-cigarette vapour, including carcinogens like formaldehyde and glycidol.

Thirdly, e-cigarette devices can be dangerous. Earlier this month, an unregulated vape pen exploded in a British man’s pocket, shredding his jeans and causing severe burns. A man in Florida was killed in May when a vape pen exploded and penetrated his brain. It was a so-called mechanical mod device, which drew power directly from the battery.

Moreover, e-cigarettes could also increase the number of smokers. Ideally, e-cigarettes are utilised to help smokers quit, as Mr da Roza said. However, things don’t always turn out like that. With the lack of detailed information on the negatives of e-cigarettes, the public may overlook the downsides and more people might want to give e-cigarettes a try, believing they are a safer option.

We need to shun cigarette use of all kinds and aim for a smoke-free society. Replacing traditional cigarettes with e-cigarettes is not the answer.

Katy Law, Sha Tin