Hong Kong’s effort to ban vaping could push back

By Victoria Takacs

One of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world right now is the production and sale of e-cigarettes. The global e-cigarette market is expected to reach a value of $16.85 billion by the year 2023, according to Mordor Intelligence. Despite the estimated increase, some nations are working towards regulating and restricting the products out of fear of public health and safety.

Hong Kong’s government is working to blanket ban all forms of e-cigarettes. The nation is moving towards banning the sale, manufacturing and distribution of vaping accessories with a possible fine of HK $50,000 and a maximum sentence of six months in jail, according to International Business Times. This may end badly as regulations work much better than a complete ban. Looking back at historical occurrences such as the prohibition shows, taking away something so popular never ends well.

The decision was also a shock for many, as Hong Kong’s government recently said only the sale of new tobacco products to minors would be restricted. The South China Morning Post said that, although the government is pushing towards banning vaping completely, it will still be legal in areas only where smoking is allowed. If someone is caught vaping in a non-smoking area, they will be subject to a fixed penalty of HK $1,500 or a court-imposed fine of HK $5,000.

Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, made a pledge during a policy address to move towards this ban, seeking to nip the relatively new habit in the bud before it got out of hand.

The best way Hong Kong could have handled the vaping situation is to simply place more regulations on it. Where and how it can be bought and sold are a big part of it, along with how the product is advertised. As time goes by, their government will most likely realize they made the wrong choice.

The South China Morning Post stated that it is widely agreed that banning vaping can and will push people towards the tobacco industry. It will also deprive future generations of smokers of an alternative and effective remedy to tobacco addiction.

Tobacco companies have started to rejoice at the thought of this momentous opportunity for them. People that used vaping to quit smoking will ultimately revert back to smoking. One can argue that if they were able to break the habit by vaping, vaping should be easier to break. Addiction to something like smoking is not easily gotten over, and the desire to start smoking again is present in many long-time vapers.

Research done by Otago University said  that vapers either do not quit smoking or go back to smoking because there “was a strong attachment to and nostalgia for “real” cigarette experiences.” Others only used vaping because it was not banned indoors, unlike cigarettes. While the strong nicotine cravings can be satisfied by vaping, people who spent a lot of years smoking tend to agree that it is not the same feeling.

A study published by PLOS One had over 850 participants who were asked to try vaping for one year. By the end of the study, surveys showed that 90 percent of them still smoked cigarettes. You cannot discredit the benefits of turning to vaping instead of smoking, but if Hong Kong wanted to start breaking bad habits, pushing its citizens back towards tobacco use is not the way to do it.

Another major concern is safety hazards. Making something illegal will usually push it towards the black market, where anyone can buy anything and have no idea what it contains. Naive minors are at a bigger risk, as they may not know what to look for or what is safe. If Hong Kong’s government is really trying to help its citizens, making everyone go cold-turkey was the wrong move.

Victoria Takacs can be reached at victoria.takacs@spartans.ut.edu

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