E-cigarette ban in Hong Kong would be 'ignorant' and 'irresponsible', says industry head

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 12:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 2:50am

Electronic cigarettes should be regulated in Hong Kong, not banned, says the head of the industry's largest representative organisation.

Ray Story, president of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, said suggestions of a ban would be "ignorant" and "irresponsible" given that smoking rates in the city were already flatlining and that the product could help eliminate conventional tobacco use.

Without regulatory oversight, local vendors were now selling e-cigarettes "under the cover of darkness" and compromising safety. "You can't pretend its not there … this is extremely irresponsible," he said.

His comments come as Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man recently said the government would consider the Council on Smoking and Health's request to ban the sale of the products citywide.

E-cigarettes, essentially "personal vaporisers", are used as an alternative to tobacco and can be sold legally in Hong Kong if they do not contain nicotine. Any product with more than 0.1 per cent nicotine must be registered.

"We build laws on an abundance of information. Building them on a lack of information is ignorance … it's like banning the electric car because it's quiet," Story said on a visit to Hong Kong.

He pointed out that there was no concrete information proving e-cigarettes were hazardous to health and, if anything, allowing and regulating e-cigarettes would help "eliminate conventional cigarettes in the next decade" by providing smokers with a less harmful alternative.

"Warnings and taxes have not worked. Why not provide them with another option?"

Asked whether he might take legal action in Hong Kong to prevent a ban, Story said he "hoped he wouldn't have to go there" and wished for a "logical and responsible conversation".

Last month, health chief Ko said there was a risk that youngsters would pick up the habit of smoking conventional tobacco products after they began smoking e-cigarettes.

Ko's undersecretary, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, added that there was little evidence to show that the battery-powered vaporisers reduced consumption of tobacco and they do contain substances that are addictive and hazardous to health.

A proposal for a citywide ban is expected to be presented in the legislature this year.