Date
23 July 2018
Jeff Lee Pui-man, head of the health department’s Tobacco Control Office, presents the findings of a government survey that looked into tobacco use habits of Hong Kong people. Photo: HK Govt
Jeff Lee Pui-man, head of the health department’s Tobacco Control Office, presents the findings of a government survey that looked into tobacco use habits of Hong Kong people. Photo: HK Govt

Smoking rate in HK falls to record low, but concerns remain

Hong Kong has seen a further decline in the smoking rate in the city, officials said on Thursday, suggesting that the government’s tobacco control measures continue to yield results.

Citing data gathered from a government survey, officials said only 10 percent of Hongkongers aged 15 and above are now estimated to be regular smokers, the lowest level since records began in 1982.

The latest figure for the smoking rate — pertaining to the year 2017 — compares with 10.5 percent in 2015, 10.7 percent in 2012 and 14.4 percent in 2002. 

According to the results of the Thematic Household Survey (THS) published by the Census and Statistics Department, there were about 615,000 daily smokers aged 15 and above in 2017, of whom 527,000 were males (85.7%) and 88,100 were females (14.3%), the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In 2015, there were 641,300 smokers in the city, a previous survey showed.

On average, cigarette smokers consumed 12.4 cigarettes a day in 2017, slightly less than 13.1 in 2015. Moreover, 0.9 percent of total daily smokers were e-cigarettes smokers.

The survey, which was conducted from June to September last year and interviewed 10,000 households, found that 14.5 percent of the habitual smokers were in the 40-49 age group, higher than the other groups.

While the continuing decline in smoking prevalence was a good sign, on-campus anti-smoking campaigns might have not been effective enough, the data suggested.

The use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, among primary school students remains a concern.

A survey conducted from November 2016 to June 2017 on smoking among students found the smoking prevalence among Primary 4 to 6 students was 0.1 percent while among secondary students it was 2.5 percent. The figures represent declines of only 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively, compared to a 2014-15 survey.

The survey, commissioned by the Food and Health Bureau, was conducted by the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong. 

Among Primary 4 to 6 students, 1.4 percent admitted they had used e-cigarettes, while in the case of secondary school students it was 8.7 percent. Among those surveyed, 0.8 percentsaid they do so regularly.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Jeff Lee Pui-man, head of the Tobacco Control Office, said although smoking in Hong Kong has fallen overall, authorities still need to step up their work.

The challenges posed by electronic smoking devices, which have become more popular, remain as the 2017 survey showed that more citizens have tried e-devices, compared to the 2015 survey.

According to the THS report, there were 5,700 daily e-cigarette users last year.

Warning that electronic smoking devices also pose significant health risks, Lee said his office will explore with relevant authorities possible amendments to the tobacco ordinance to regulate e-cigarette products.

In other comments, Lee said the goal now is to bring down the smoking rate in the city to single digits.

The official believes raising the tobacco tax is an effective way to achieve the purpose.

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TL/JC/RC

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