24 October 2016
The government wants health warnings on tobacco products to be bigger with more scary graphics. Photo: HKEJ
The government wants health warnings on tobacco products to be bigger with more scary graphics. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong plans to expand anti-smoking measures

Hong Kong plans to launch more measures to cut down the number of smokers, a health official said, adding that current warnings on cigarette packages are not scary enough to discourage smoking.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the government is considering three measures to bolster the anti-smoking campaign, Ming Pao Daily reported.

First, messages on cigarette packs will be more graphic and will contain more frightening images, as implemented in other countries. Second, smoking will be banned at all bus stops near tunnel entrances and exits. Third, a full ban on e-cigarettes will be implemented.

While the government has not set any timeframe for the measures to be launched, Chan said the proposals are expected to be presented to the Legislative Council this year.

She also said the government will consider a tax increase on tobacco products in the next fiscal year after it decided not to raise the tobacco tax this year.

Hong Kong is also considering enlarging the health warnings on tobacco products. Many countries, such as Thailand and Canada, have enhanced the health warnings on cigarette packs by having them cover 60 to 80 percent of the exterior of the pack. Since 2007, Hong Kong law has only required at least 50 percent as suggested by the World Health Organization.

The government proposals are not aggressive enough, according to the Council on Smoking and Health, a local anti-smoking watchdog.

Citing practices in other countries, the group said health warnings should cover the entire pack or container of tobacco products with graphics covering at least 85 percent of the pack.

However, Chan said requiring cigarette makers to cover the entire cigarette pack with health warnings might lead to legal disputes, as what the Australian government faced when it implemented the policy.

She said Hong Kong is closely watching the progress of the litigation.

Meanwhile, the Coalition on Tobacco Affairs opposed a proposal to fully ban the importation and sale of e-cigarettes, noting that even authorities in the United States and the European Union did not impose a complete ban but only issued regulations to restrict sales.

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