If better health is the goal, banning vaping products and not cigarettes is illogical

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2018, 8:03am

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced in last week’s policy address the government’s intention to ban the use of e-cigarettes and related vaping products (“Hong Kong to impose full ban on e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products”, October 9). She argued that the interests of children must be the priority over the interests of those who use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking.

This sounds well-intentioned. While it is widely accepted that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than cigarettes, there is some evidence that such products may not be entirely harmless.

Unfortunately, the logic of such a ban is deeply flawed.

Firstly, if the government has identified a complete ban on e-cigarettes as the only way to prevent them falling into the hands of those under 18, then it should logically also completely ban cigarettes, as well as alcohol. It has not proposed to do this. Instead, it sensibly regulates the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to those under 18.

Why Hong Kong ban on e-cigarettes is wrong – they helped me quit tobacco

Secondly, if the government has identified a clear link between e-cigarette use and taking up smoking, logic again implies that a ban should focus on the far more harmful product: cigarettes. If cigarettes are unavailable, no one – children or adults – can become addicted to cigarettes by first trying far less harmful e-cigarettes. The government is not proposing to do this.

Thirdly, many e-cigarette users can testify that such products help them to significantly reduce their use of tobacco, and sometimes quit completely. This reduces the risk of developing tobacco-related diseases. In the long term, this saves public money spent on treating such diseases and frees up beds in public hospitals. In this way, e-cigarettes might arguably be considered a net benefit to public health and public finances.

More could no doubt be done to regulate the sale and use of e-cigarettes and related products. A complete ban defies logic.

Richard McGeough, Yung Shue Wan