It may be time to kick the habit for vapers in Hong Kong as officials ready a law to choke the supply, sale and promotion of e-cigarettes, with a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,370).
A bill to amend the Smoking Ordinance targeting new tobacco products was submitted to the Legislative Council on Wednesday and will go through its first reading on February 20.
The near-total ban makes good on a pledge Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made in her second policy address, as the government seeks to nip the relatively new habit in the bud before it becomes entrenched in the city.
Her proposal back then sparked heated debate over whether it would be effective in reducing smoking, and raised questions about the administration’s drastic change in policy from regulation to a blanket ban.
Under the new law, it will still be legal to use the products, though doing so in a non-smoking area will be subject to a fixed penalty of HK$1,500 or a court-imposed fine of HK$5,000.
But anyone who brings in, imports, makes, sells, distributes or promotes new smoking products – including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn products and herbal cigarettes – could be subject to a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000 if convicted.
Possession of the products or any part of them for the purpose of manufacturing, sale or distribution will be subject to the same penalty. Distribution in the form of a prize or gift will also be prohibited, while cargo and people in transit will be exempted.
Law enforcement officials will be given more power when handling cases related to new smoking products than those involving conventional tobacco.
Customs officials will be authorised to stop and search any incoming parcel, cargo, baggage or traveller. Officers from the Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office under the Health Department will be able to stop a suspicious person from leaving the scene and call for police help if the person refuses to cooperate with their search.
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