CHINA — In a proactive move toward curbing the pervasive influence of smoking, Hong Kong’s health authorities have opened the floor to city residents for their input on an array of impactful anti-smoking strategies.

Among the 17 potential measures under scrutiny is a proposal to ban tobacco sales to individuals born after a designated date, marking a radical shift towards a smoke-free future.

The Hong Kong Health Authorities’ questionnaire for public consultation covers an array of strategies aimed at reshaping the city’s smoking landscape.

Tackling the pressing concern of tobacco-related health issues, the four-pronged approach encompasses supply regulation, demand suppression, promotion bans, attractiveness reduction, non-smoking area expansion, harm mitigation, education enhancement, and robust support for those seeking to quit.

Health Minister Lo Chung-mau emphasized the need for modern strategies to safeguard the well-being of future generations and ensure the sustainability of the healthcare system.

“To protect our next generation from the harms of tobacco and to ensure the sustainability of our healthcare system, we need to draft strategies that keep up with the times,” Lo told a press briefing.

“As a doctor, I don’t want our next generation to suffer from the harms of smoking and secondhand smoke.”

Tobacco’s grim toll

The significance of this initiative stems from the profound global impact of tobacco consumption. As highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco usage stands as the leading cause of preventable deaths and noncommunicable diseases.

Shockingly, tobacco claims over 8 million lives annually across the globe. The provision of smoking cessation services becomes an indispensable component of any effective tobacco control strategy.

In the context of China, chronic illnesses account for a staggering 88% of total deaths and over 70% of the prevalent health issues in the population.

China, being the world’s primary producer and consumer of tobacco, witnesses a cohort of more than 300 million smokers, constituting nearly a third of the planet’s smoking populace.

To compound matters, a staggering 700 million non-smokers, encompassing approximately 180 million children, face daily exposure to second-hand smoke, culminating in a yearly fatality count of 100,000.

Hong Kong Health Authority’s ongoing consultation delves into a plethora of strategic avenues, encompassing discussions about the potential acceleration or gradual progression of tobacco tax hikes to 75% of package prices.

Simultaneously, the viability of an extended prohibition on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products remains a topic of consideration.

It’s noteworthy that Hong Kong has already implemented a ban on the import, promotion, manufacture, and sale of these items.

Navigating the delicate balance between audacity and practicality, the governmental consultation threads the needle between daring initiatives and pragmatic actions.

While more aggressive measures, such as requiring licenses for tobacco vendors, penalties for suppliers to minors, and implementing age verification for tobacco purchases, remain omitted, the present endeavors strive to align with the Healthy China 2030 strategy.

This broader goal aims to slash smoking rates among individuals aged 15 and above by 20% before 2030.

Furthermore, propelled by the aspiration to cultivate a healthier nation, China has orchestrated a comprehensive network of cessation resources via the “China Cessation Platform.”

Spearheaded by the Tobacco Control Working Group of the Healthy China Promotion Committee and bolstered by support from the WHO China Office, this collaborative program ensures accessible cessation resources.

The innovative platform tailors support to smokers, granting them vital aid on their journey towards quitting.

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