Hong Kong intends to imprison the violators


Like many smokers, Chan, based in Hong Kong, did not relish his addiction. He wanted to quit, but was struggling to end his nicotine addiction.

Two years ago, while celebrating his 30th birthday, Chan began using a device that heats the tobacco – instead of burning it – to release a nicotine vapor.

"I wanted to stop smoking but I was not quite ready to stop taking nicotine," he says. "I saw this as a gateway way to do something less harmful than smoking … There is no ashes, no smell, and my lungs and my breath feel better when I use them. "

But today, this industry is facing a battle. While many smokers adopt alternative devices to try to quit, governments around the world are divided.

This month, the Hong Kong government announced its intention to continue the controversial ban on all electronic cigarettes and all products heated without burning.

Under the extensive bill, which begins tomorrow in the legislature's work, anyone who imports, manufactures, sells or promotes new smoker's products may incur a six-month sentence of imprisonment or a fine of HK $ 50,000 ( $ 6,370).

Chan says the legislation will allow him to choose between becoming a criminal or doing something worse for his health.

"This will send people to smoke real cigarettes or drive the entire industry underground to the black market," he says.

The first e-puff

In 2003, Chinese pharmacist Han Li filed a patent for "a flameless electronic vaporizer cigarette" in the Shenzhen manufacturing center, just across the border with Hong Kong.
A year later, the world's first electronic cigarettes were sold in the Chinese market and shipped within 12 months. E-cigarettes were considered a pleasant and safe alternative to tobacco – an important product in a country like China, where more than 50% of adult men still smoke and where lung cancer is the leading cause of death.
The technology works as follows: a small lithium battery atomizes a liquid solution of nicotine to produce a fog resembling cigarette smoke. When smokers inhale a cigarette, they have the same sensation as cigarettes but industry players claim that these products can be up to 95% safer than burning tobacco.
The World Health Organization has warned that the long-term effects of spraying are unknown and that the nicotine they contain is addictive.

Today, the United States represents the largest market in the world with a value of $ 5.1 billion last year, followed by Japan and the United Kingdom, according to Euromonitor.

The products have been widely hailed as a way to wean people from traditional smoking. A study published earlier this month by the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes helped people quit at twice the rate of people using nicotine replacement therapy.
But consider this: of the 3 million device users in the UK, only half are former cigarette smokers. In the United States, the famous JUUL brand of electronic cigarettes, which holds 75% of the market, has been criticized for adding sweet flavors to its "e-liquids" supposed to appeal to young people. The vaping has become so ubiquitous in many American high schools that the US Food and Drug Administration has termed it "epidemic".

Are products a way of giving up tobacco, or simply an alternative gateway to nicotine?

The FDA is considering drugs to help children quit smoking.

For the Hong Kong government, it is more important to protect young people from vaping than to give smokers an alternative to traditional tobacco products.

"These products are being marketed as fashionable products to attract young people who are not already smoking," said Antonio Cho-shing Kwong, chairman of the Hong Kong Tobacco and Health Council, who lobbied the government. to obtain the proposed ban.

"The prevalence of smoking among high school children in Hong Kong is 2.5%, and with such a low rate, anything that would appeal to young people is dangerous."

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said all alternative smoking products were "a gateway to the ultimate consumption of conventional cigarettes," adding that "all these new products are harmful to health and produce second-hand smoke. "

Under the ban, citizens can smoke their current supplies at home. But once these exhausted, the purchase of alternative tobacco products will constitute a legal challenge.

The big debate on the vape

The world is divided on electronic cigarettes.

At present, 39 jurisdictions have banned products, including Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Thailand. In Canada and Australia, electronic cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal, although these products are rare. The United Kingdom and the United States have ruled that selling to adults is legal.

Legislation and regulations have been slow to catch up with the industry, new products such as fire protection devices, including the Iqos manufactured by tobacco giant Philip Morris, have entered the market .

Iqos technology is different from Shenzhen-designed electronic cigarettes. The device heats rather than burns a tobacco stick, which the company claims to be 90% less harmful because it produces far fewer carcinogens.

"Hong Kong legislation has brought everything together: electronic cigarettes and unburned heat, but the government needs to understand the difference between what the two are and how they could regulate them," said Brett Cooper, Hong Kong's chief executive officer. Kong and Macau for Philip Morris.

In Japan, where 34% of people still smoke, nicotine electronic cigarettes have been banned – but Iqos is legal and is a resounding success.

"In Japan, one in five has gone from smoking to these alternative products," said Cooper, pointing out that Iqos accounted for 15% of the tobacco market in Japan, where 3 million people used it.

With the new legislation, Hong Kong shows that he is opposed to "innovation, technology, and emerging science," Cooper adds.

Iqos coffee in Andorra.

Go underground

Nav Lalji has a hard job. He is president of the Asian Vape Association, a group formed in 2015 to bring together vapers from the region. However, it has since become a defensive body, as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan have all banned electronic cigarettes.

A former smoker who quit smoking to be stung, Lalji said that he was "devastated" by the Hong Kong government's decision, especially when other tobacco products, which kill more than 7 million people a year in the world, will be left on the shelves.

Lalji thinks that the ban in Hong Kong will simply turn smokers into electronic cigarettes and heated products without burning into criminals.

"The problem is that we are located in Hong Kong, right next to Shenzhen, the nerve center of electronic cigarette manufacturing," Lalji said, adding that the Chinese megalopolis provided 95 percent of the world's electronics. global supply of electronic cigarettes.

"So, if someone in Hong Kong can not buy them legally, he could simply cross the border into China to pick them up or order them online."

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For others, the bill threatens to move Hong Kong into the territory of the nanny state.

"This ban goes against some values ​​that are important to me: freedom of choice as a consumer and the freedom to access less harmful products," says Brice L, a French expatriate installed in Hong Kong who asked CNN not to use its latest information. name because of the legal sensitivity surrounding electronic cigarettes.

"Overall, it seems like the Hong Kong government is backing away – and I do not understand the reasoning behind that."

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