Comments to Hong Kong Legislative Council on Bill 2019 | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

Comments to Hong Kong Legislative Council on Bill 2019

April 5, 2019

The Honorable Andrew Leung, GBS, JP
President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Members of the Legislative Council
Legislative Complex
1 Legislative Council Road
Central, Hong Kong

Dear President Leung and Members of the Legislative Council,

On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), I am submitting written comments for the April 13 public meeting on Bill 2019 to the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, which would prohibit the import, manufacture, sale, distribution, and advertisement of alternative smoking products.  These alternative products include electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), heat-not-burn products, and herbal cigarettes.

CAGW is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit, organization whose mission is to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and inefficiency in government.  Founded in 1984 by the late industrialist J. Peter Grace and syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, CAGW was established to follow up on the work of the President’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, also known as the Grace Commission.

The Legislative Council Brief (FH CR 1/3231/19), under the heading “Justifications,” includes the following:

The emergence of alternative smoking products has posed new health risk and challenges.  Often packaged as less harmful substitutes with promotion tactics targeted at youngsters and non-smokers, these products open a gateway to the eventual consumption of conventional cigarettes.  The fact is: all these new smoking products are harmful to health and produce second-hand smoke.  There is also a lack of sufficient evidence to prove that these products can help quit smoking.  Instead, there are studies that suggested that the introduction of these new products could result in dual use with conventional cigarettes.

Many of these assumptions are not accurate.  Public Health England (PHE), for example, has recognized that e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn technology are valuable tools to help adult smokers quit smoking and save lives.  I urge you to read England’s Department of Health July 2017 tobacco-control plan, “Towards a Smokefree Generation.”  A major part of the plan is to not only permit but also encourage the use of safer alternatives to smoking, like e-cigarettes.  England’s health officials recognize evidence is growing that these technologies are significantly less harmful to health than combustible cigarettes.

A study of nicotine replacement therapy, funded by the British National Institute for Health Research and Cancer Research and published in the February 14, 2019 New England Journal of Medicine, found that e-cigarettes were twice as effective as nicotine patches or gum to help smokers quit cigarettes.  The December 28, 2018 PHE video also demonstrates that these new technologies are not as harmful as cigarette smoking.  The video clearly illustrates the impact of smoking versus vaping over 30 days.

PHE’s proactive view on the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) has helped more than one million smokers in England quit their deadly habit since 2014.  At the rate England is proceeding, PHE has predicted that by 2030, England will be classified as smoke-free, which is less than 5 percent of the population.

To be clear, CAGW is disappointed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approach to the use of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn technology.  CAGW believes the agency’s recent proposal to ban certain flavors in ENDS products and its lack of action to approve for the marketplace new harm-reduction policies will hurt smokers who are trying to move away from deadly combustible cigarettes.

CAGW hopes that you and the members of the Legislative Council will oppose Bill 2019. Tobacco is grown all over the world, with mainland China producing the most, 2,391 metric tons, in 2017.  If Hong Kong should make ENDS products illegal, smokers who are trying to wean themselves off of deadly combustible cigarettes will find it difficult to find much safer alternatives, which will cause many unnecessary deaths.

Sincerely,

Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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