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“Towards a Tobacco Endgame in Hong Kong” Conference

1 December 2017

Prof Sophia Chan, JP, SFH

Dr Douglas BETTCHER, Dr Constance CHAN, Mr Antonio KWONG, distinguished guests,

                   Good morning!  It is my pleasure to take part in the “Towards a Tobacco Endgame in Hong Kong” Conference organised by the Department of Health and the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health to celebrate the 35th anniversary of tobacco control in Hong Kong. 

2.                Nowadays, tobacco consumption constitutes the single most important preventable risk factor which accounts for the main causes of death and chronic diseases including cancers and cardiovascular diseases.  Tobacco consumption is estimated to be responsible for approaching 7 000 deaths in Hong Kong per year and over 7 million deaths worldwide per year. 

3.                The Government’s tobacco control policy seeks to safeguard public health by discouraging smoking, containing the proliferation of tobacco use and minimizing the impact of passive smoking on the public.  We adopt a multi-pronged approach, comprising legislation, enforcement, publicity, education, smoking cessation services and taxation.  All of these efforts add up together to bring down the smoking prevalence rate from 23.3% in 1982 to 10.5% in 2015. 

4.                There is no room for complacency. The Government has spared no efforts for strengthening our tobacco control efforts in Hong Kong.  Subsequent to the smoking ban in all indoor public places such as all indoor working places, schools and universities, ten years ago, we extended the statutory no smoking areas to eight bus interchange facilities near tunnels in 2016.  To further safeguard the public health of Hong Kong and reduce the nuisance of secondhand smoke, we have committed in the Policy Agenda 2017 to study the extension of statutory no smoking areas to other public transport facilities. 

5.                Smoking cessation is an integral and indispensable part of the Government’s tobacco control policy to complement other tobacco control measures.  Apart from the integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline operated by the Department of Health and the smoking cessation services provided by the Hospital Authority and non-governmental organizations, the Primary Care Office of the Department of Health will launch a pilot Public-Private Partnership Programme on Smoking Cessation to engage private doctors to encourage smoker patients to attempt smoking cessation during consultations.  The pilot programme will be launched for two years with a quota of 450 smokers each year.  The Tobacco Control Office of the Department of Health will also arrange online training sessions for doctors who register for the programme.

6.                In recent years, tobacco companies have introduced new products including e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products into the market.  These products are claimed to enable “harm reduction”, though there is a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to support those claims.  These novel tobacco products target at the younger generation and are often promoted as high end or fashionable accessories.  The use of these products has started to become a trend in some countries. In light of their renormalization of smoking behaviour and WHO’s recommendation, we need to nip the problem in the bud. We are working on details to regulate these products and aim to introduce an amendment bill to the Legislative Council soon. I also note that we have today speakers from different parts of the world to share with us development in the use, testing and regulation of these products worldwide.  I look forward to some inspiring discussions later today.

7.                All in all, tobacco control is a longstanding battle all around the world. I would like to thank COSH and our partners for their staunch support of the Government’s tobacco control policy all along.  Let us continue to work together, so that we could further reduce the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong and eventually head towards a tobacco endgame. As the Secretary for Food and Health, to safeguard public health, provide quality medical services, ensure food safety and environmental hygiene will be top priorities on my agenda.  My team and I will continue to work hard for the betterment of Hong Kong.  Thank you.