Experts warn vapers traveling abroad always to stay aware of local regulations or they could even face jail time.
Vaping regulations are quite complex given their nature. Legislators are tasked with deciding how to best maximize their utility without exposing citizens to unnecessary harm. Making matters more complicated is the relative newness of vaping, as it’s barely over ten years old. The result is a continually changing regulatory environment across the world, and often within the same place. Hong Kong, for example, had been on track to implement some of the world’s most progressive vaping regulations, but thanks to public outcry, they’re now set to push the bar the other direction. In fact, experts are warning vapers who may travel to the island territory to stay aware of the new rules, or else they could end up incarcerated.
News of the shifting regulations has garnered varied reactions. Supporters of vaping question the validity of banning vaping while leaving combustible cigarette regulations unchanged. Not only that, but they point to a growing pile of peer-reviewed evidence which concludes vaping is one of the best smoking cessation and harm reduction tools we have at our disposal. Meanwhile, most anti-vapers applaud parts of the ban, while many others are hesitant to back the harshest portions. Regardless, it remains vital for vapers traveling abroad to stay diligent about the variety of vaping rules out there.
Potential Jail Time
The latest Hong Kong vaping regulations make it illegal to buy, sell, import, use, or even possess, any vaping products. Typically using or having a vaping device would result in a fine between HK$1,500 and HK$5,000 ($192-$640). Where it becomes more complicated for travelers is that by unwittingly bringing your vape with you, you’re technically committing the much more severe crime of importing vaping supplies, which carries a punishment of up to six months in jail along with an HK$50,000 ($6,420) fine. As such, vaping advocacy groups from around the world are working to inform vapers about the changing laws.
The New Nicotine Alliance, a UK based advocacy group, pointed out around 35,000 vapers from the UK alone are likely to visit Hong Kong each year. This shows the dire need to inform vapers about regulations abroad. They were also critical of the new rule which essentially forces visiting vapers to either revert to much more dangerous smoking to get their nicotine fix, or simply not visit at all. According to an NNA release, “The Legislative Council may well believe that they are doing the right thing with their proposals, but criminalizing possession of products designed to help smokers quit tobacco is in direct contrast to their stated aim to ‘discourage smoking.’”
The Value Of Vaping
It’s unfortunate legislators in Hong Kong chose to go this route with vaping, as there is a ton of reason to believe they could be a game-changing device for public health. We’ve known for years now thanks to a report by Public Health England that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. While that report was one of the first to prove the harm reduction value of vaping, it was hardly the last. In fact, just a few months ago we got a report which found the toxicants in vapor are about 93% lower than tobacco smoke. But more impressively than either of those reports is the study from the Journal of Aerosol Sciences which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is about 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.
That’s just for the harm reduction value. Looking further, we have several other strong reasons to back the harm reduction and smoking cessation tools. For instance, we now believe vaping is not only an effective quit aid, but it may actually be the single best tool to help get smokers off cigarettes for good. Perhaps even more important than anything else, it seems the media have majorly overblown the teenage vaping “epidemic.” A report conducted by Action on Smoking and Health of over 60,000 students concluded only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are vaping more than once or twice.
It’s too bad Hong Kong changed course on vaping so dramatically. They were set to implement a set of intelligent and progressive vaping rules, but thanks to the opinion of the misinformed parents, the total opposite is now a reality. It’s a great case of why you should always be extra careful about vaping whenever traveling out of your local area; You never know what sort of crazy laws may be in place. It also shows why it’s so essential to protect our vaping rights. Even in areas that seem to be heading in the right direction, it seems our vaping rights are quite fragile. So if we ever want to ensure vaping into the future, we must get more people informed about all vaping has to offer as an alternative to tobacco.
Have you ever traveled to Hong Kong, did you know about this new rule? What’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself when traveling? How should we teach others about the value of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.