A Hong Kong draft legislature intends to send vape smokers, as well as importers and sellers, jail and have them pay a significant penalty.
Violators will face imprisonment of up to six months and a 50,000 HKD or about $6,410 for smoking, selling, or promoting e-cigarettes and other heat-not-burn products.
The government said they are protecting young people from using vape as an alternative to tobacco products. The Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said that allowing the use of e-cigarettes would eventually lead to the consumption of conventional cigarettes, which are both harmful to health.
The ban will still allow smokers to consume their current stash at home. However, they will be penalized once they buy alternative smoking products after their supplies run out.
Debate Over Vape
The use of e-cigarettes like vape has been a hotly debated topic among smokers, non-smokers, and regulators. Studies have shown that there is limited evidence showing the effectiveness compared to treatment-approved nicotine products.
"E-cigarettes were more effective for smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy when both products were accompanied by behavioral support," concluded a study published Feb. 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Those who were able to quit smoking cigarettes through products like vape said that the Hong Kong government's decision to ban e-cigarettes altogether is a "devastating" move.
Concerns of flourishing black markets also arise since about 95 percent of the world's e-cigarette supply comes from Shenzhen in China, Hong Kong's next-door neighbor.
Currently, 39 countries have banned alternative smoking products, including Australia, Brazil, Thailand, and United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, in Japan, Philip Morris' Iqos technology is permitted as the company promotes that it produces 90 percent fewer carcinogens.
Why Regulate Electronic Cigarettes
Dr. Armando Peruga, who has worked with WHO's Tobacco-Free Initiative, said that the limited studies conducted on the effect of second-hand fumes containing particulate matter produced by e-cigarettes pose danger to a person's health.
"WHO has long maintained that there is no safe level of such particulates and that we should minimize these levels as far as possible, regardless of their source," Peruga said.
An opinion article published in South China Morning Post argued that while Hong Kong's effort to protect people's health, simply banning e-cigarettes and expecting people to suddenly stop smoking would be impossible.