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CAUSEWAY BAY (Hong Kong), Dec 15, 2015:

The majority of smokers in Asia believe their governments would be wrong to ban electronic cigarettes if the devices were scientifically proven to be less harmful than tobacco, according to a recent survey.

The survey, which was carried out by regional consumer advocacy group factasia.org, found that 75% of those polled were in favour of the government not preventing or delaying the introduction of less harmful alternatives.

The poll, which was recently conducted by a global market research company Ipsos, featured hundreds of respondents from Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan.

Factasia.org’s co-founder John Boley said the respondents were also asked whether governments should encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives and also ensure that they were not used by young people.

“There was very strong agreement,” he said during the “Harm Reduction in Asia – Developing a Regulatory Framework for E-cigarettes Symposium” here last week.

The symposium was organised by Factasia.org in the wake of the intense debate over the harm reduction potential of e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative for adult smokers.

The group’s initiative comes at a time when the Hong Kong and Macau governments are considering completely banning the sales of e-cigarettes.

Authorities in Malaysia have already announced they will regulate rather than ban and proposals are expected to be reviewed and voted on by legislators in 2016.

Boley said 82% of the respondents felt that governments should encourage smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives.

“Incidentally, we also asked whether they thought they were okay with using e-cigarettes in their own country.

“There is an extraordinary degree of uncertainty as more of a third of the people polled across the region, or 36% of people in Hong Kong, do not know whether these things were legal or not.”

Boley also said 71% of the respondents agreed that e-cigarettes were a positive alternative to today’s conventional cigarettes while 70% of those interviewed would consider switching to e-cigarettes if they were legal, met quality and safety standards, and were readily available.

In August, Public Health England (PHE), the expert body that advises on public health in the United Kingdom, concluded that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful to health than tobacco.

Meanwhile, Nav Lalji, founder of the Hong Kong-based Asian Vape Association, said he had been seeing more adult smokers switching to “vaping” in order to reduce or completely quit their tobacco dependence.

“We are seeing a rapid increase in adult smokers switching to vape products throughout Hong Kong.

“Most users are now ex-smokers who wished to quit but found traditional therapies, such as nicotine patches and chewing gums, ineffective.

“A lot of users strongly oppose a ban on e-cigarettes because this means that they will be forced to go back to using tobacco cigarettes, which ironically are not banned.”

He said that vaping was the most successful alternative to tobacco cigarettes due to its ability to replicate the act of smoking.

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