The government wants to regulate non-traditional tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes, which are becoming popular in Hong Kong, as part of efforts to protect public health.
In a document submitted to the Legislative Council on Tuesday, the Food and Health Bureau said multiple types of new tobacco products have been found containing harmful substances that can affect health, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The bureau said these products, including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn products and herbal cigarettes, should be regulated in the same way that traditional cigarettes are being regulated.
Proposals include levying tax on any part of the product that contains tobacco, banning the use of additives, such as vitamins, so as to prevent people from considering them healthy or less risky, and prohibiting producers from using attractive scents to promote them.
According to the bureau, at least five samples of e-cigarettes that were analyzed in a government laboratory tested positive for formaldehyde, a carcinogen.
Another test performed by the Hong Kong Baptist University also found that smoke from e-cigarettes contained formaldehyde and some heavy metals rather than only water vapor as claimed by their manufacturers.
An intake of those substances over an extended period of time can increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as cancer.
As for heat-not-burn products, seven samples were found to contain nicotine and tar. The former can cause addiction and narrowing of blood vessels while the latter can cause cancer.
Smoke from herbal cigarettes tested positive for harmful substances such as tar, carbon monoxide and aromatic amines which can constitute a health risk to both smokers and passive smokers.
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said in a blog post on Tuesday that regulating non-traditional tobacco products by law can help not only lower people’s chances of contracting chronic diseases but also reduce the burden on the city’s healthcare system.
Meanwhile, tobacco company Philip Morris said there is scientific evidence proving its heat-not-burn products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes and therefore the two should not be regulated in the same way.
The Coalition on Tobacco Affairs, an umbrella group of tobacco producers, also insisted that e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products should be regulated in a separate way since they are totally different from traditional tobacco products in nature.
It suggested that the government should treat them as other types of tobacco products instead of cigarettes as more than 40 countries and regions do.
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