The South China Morning Post has reported that Hong Kong’s legislature will consider implementing tougher measures against smoking, such as more graphic warnings on packaging and an e-cigarette ban.
The city’s Food and Health Bureau has pushed for changes to reduce the incidence of smoking amongst women and the youth. Although the rate of smoking in Hong Kong has gone down in recent years—hitting a trough of 10 percent of the population in 2012—the number of female smokers rose 70 percent from 1990 to 2012.
One of the proposals is to increase the size of warning labels, which currently account for 50 percent of the packet, echoing similar moves in Canada (80 percent packaging) and Australia, where the world’s toughest warnings (featuring frightening pictures of health risks) have totally replaced branding labels. The changes, which will be debated by the Legislative Council this year, may be partly in response to the World Health Organisation’s push for more grotesque warnings on cigarette packaging in China. Earlier, however, Hong Kong decided not to increase the tax on tobacco in 2015.
The relative success of Hong Kong’s anti-smoking laws may have inspired Beijing in its measures to kick the smoking scourge in China—there are reportedly 300 million smokers across the country and some 740 million people, including 180 million children, are affected by second-hand smoke. In November 2014, Beijing passed legislation which instituted a ban on smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces and public transport vehicles; as well as certain outdoor spaces such as schools, sports venues and women and children’s hospitals. The laws also restricted tobacco advertising in the media and banned all forms of tobacco promotions and title sponsorship. These laws will come into effect in June 2015.
While the laws, which were amended three times in the draft stage to respond to potential loopholes, at least manifest a legislative intention to seriously tackle smoking, doubts have still been raised as to how effectively they will be enforced—especially given how poorly Chinese have observed previous bans on indoor smoking.
At any rate, there’s still a lot more to be done if China is to ever shake this vice, although taking cigarettes away from smoking toddlers is always a good start.
By Liam Bourke