As regulators consider introduction of strict prohibitions on e-cigarettes, health professionals and industry figures are urging the government to give up on the planned ban.
Legal frameworks regulating use of vaping products are still evolving, with each country taking its own course and drafting a set of laws that best reflects local attitudes. So far, that resulted in a patchwork of regulations that in some cases could be harmful for the overall population by removing e-cigarettes as a viable aid for smokers looking to kick their habit. Hong Kong is the latest example of a jurisdiction seeking to impose order on this industry that could go too far with its intended protections.
The country is looking to impose a total ban on import and sales of electronic cigarettes, under the justification that nicotine is a poison that can’t be sold freely. As of now, vaping products are widely available and can be purchased by minors without any restrictions, which caused a lot of media outrage over the issue and prompted the government to submit to the Legislative Council a bill that would keep smokeless nicotine products off the shelves of local shops. However, not all citizens of Hong Kong agree that a ban on this group of cigarette replacements is a good idea.
Indeed, an intense public debate is currently ongoing about the proposed bill, with multiple renowned members of Hong Kong society standing up against the ban. Proponents are looking to educate legislators and point towards new UK-funded research that deems e-cigarettes 95% less harmful than tobacco, while citing Australia and New Zealand as examples of countries with good legislation in this regard. They are also pointing out that users would likely turn to the black market or buy vaping materials in nearby Chinese towns if the proposed ban goes through. Given that safety of consumer products can be less effectively controlled outside of legal channels, associated health risks could actually increase in that scenario.
Mostly everyone agrees that sales to minors should be discontinued and that some sort of controlled environment needs to be established, even if the methods proposed may be vastly different. The decision will ultimately rest with law makers, who are receptive to the opinions of the public, which is why both sides of the Hong Kong vaping issue are trying to appeal to the public.
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