Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Thursday it is worth considering banning traditional tobacco in Hong Kong, a day after she proposed to fully ban electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, in her second policy address.
Lam expressed her view when she was asked during a radio interview why the government only wants to ban e-cigarettes but not traditional tobacco as well if it really cares about public health, Apple Daily reports.
Her latest remarks were an apparent about-face. Lam said on Wednesday it was not proper to abruptly ban a long-existing commercial activity, referring to the sale of traditional tobacco.
The chief executive told the radio program that she is bold enough to impose a total ban on traditional tobacco, only that there are a lot of pros and cons that needed to be considered before doing so.
She also said the fact that the prevalence of smoking among persons aged 15 and above has dropped to 10 percent, from 20 percent in the 1980s, shows that government efforts to reduce the rate have been successful.
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the policy of banning the importation, manufacture, sale, distribution and advertisement of e-cigarettes has been finalized and will not be changed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
There are concerns that e-cigarette smokers will be forced to turn to traditional cigarettes once the ban takes effect, but Chan said that is mere speculation and not supported by data.
A study conducted last month by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World showed more than six in ten adult smokers said they rely on e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking.
Chan said authorities will step up efforts at tobacco control after implementation of the e-cigarette ban.
Meanwhile, Professor Gabriel Matthew Leung Cheuk-wai, dean of the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine, praised the plan to ban e-cigarettes as the most important milestone since the amendment of the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance.
He said he hopes the government will propose a significant increase in the tobacco tax in its next budget plan.
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