When news broke of a significant increase in Chinese children admitting to experimenting with vaping, four Hong Kong medical groups acted swiftly to combat the disturbing trend.
Joining forces Sept. 27, representatives from the Council on Smoking and Health, Dental Association, Federation of Medical Societies and Medical Association lobbied local lawmakers to create a policy to ban e-cigarettes. A vote on proposed regulations is slated to staged in November, according to the South China Morning Post.
Daniel Ho Sai-yin, a Council on Smoking and Health representative, said his group spearheaded the local surveys and discovered a 1.6 percent increase in vaping among primary schoolchildren from 2016-17 school year to 2017-18. The surveys included data from 2,076 students from 16 primary schools two years ago and 4,599 students last year.
“The increase in student vaping was 55 percent, which was rather shocking,” Ho said.
Lawmakers in Hong Kong introduced last June new restrictions on the sales and marketing of vaping products, including heat-not-burn devices, to minors. Utilizing the rules for traditional cigarettes as a template, the lawmakers also seek to place health warning labels on packaging and ban all advertising.
In a unified statement, the four health organizations said they intend to install additional regulations on Hong Kong’s vaping community:
“We are extremely worried that legislating for a mere restriction on the sale of electronic cigarettes to adults is no different from allowing teen vaping to bubble into an epidemic of colossal scale.”
While Hong Kong lawmakers consider tougher restrictions, including a possible Hong Kong vaping ban, public health officials from other countries have conflicting philosophies surrounding vaping. Public Health England (PHE) recently updated data from a 2015 report and suggested vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking combustible cigarettes.
In a statement, the PHE concluded: “Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits.”
Still, the news of the rising number of vaping schoolchildren likely will prompt more action by the four health groups.