Hong Kong Plans to Ban E-Cigarettes - a Sensible Measure or Dangerous Nonsense?
With the new law, China's Special Administrative Region is joining a number of other states and countries where e-cigarettes and similar products are also illegal. Alternative products to tobacco cigarettes are banned in 39 jurisdictions around the world, including Brazil, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. In other countries, such as Australia, some products are regulated. In these cases, only liquids for e-cigarettes without nicotine content may be purchased and used.
What is behind the new law?
According to the Hong Kong government, the reason for the ban is to protect young people from e-cigarettes. Protecting young people is deemed more important than providing a healthier alternative for smokers. According to Antonio Cho-shing Kwong, chairman of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, e-cigarettes are marketed as trendy products for young people who do not yet smoke. Since the share of smokers among secondary school children is less than 2.5%, products that attract these children are very dangerous.
What are the pros and cons for banning alternatives to tobacco products?
In reality, however, these statements should be put into perspective. For instance, it’s impossible to determine how many e-cigarette users would have started smoking without the new technology. The percentage of underage smokers is lower than ever before - and it continues to fall every year.
As important as the protection of minors is, a complete ban on e-cigarettes is unlikely to be the best solution. In addition, it is very possible that the protection of minors is not the main reason for the ban. There have been several cases in the past where political reasons (e.g. lost tax revenues from tobacco products) were the real reason for bans on e-cigarettes.
Whatever the exact reason for the ban, it’s no question that there are better solutions. Governments could impose stricter requirements on e-cigarette manufacturers in regards to marketing their products. A complete ban on the use of e-cigarettes is likely to only have two consequences: either the sale and use of e-cigarettes will be driven underground, or users will switch back to normal cigarettes. In the long run, both alternatives are decidedly bad for both the population and the government.
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