HK Issues Low-Tar Cigarette Warning

HONG KONG ~ Hong Kong’s health officials issued a warning this week against low-tar cigarettes, telling smokers that they can be just as deadly as full-strength smokes.

A department spokesman said that a survey of 93 cigarette brands carried out by the department revealed that smokers of so-called light cigarettes were no less at risk of smoke-related diseases like lung cancer.

“When smokers choose cigarettes in this group instead of cigarettes in the middle-tar or high-tar groups, they may take larger and more frequent puffs or even smoke more cigarettes each day,” the spokesman said in a statement.

“Quitting smoking is the only way to reduce a smoker’s risk of developing heart diseases and cancers,” the spokesman added.

On January 1, Hong Kong joined a growing number of cities when it banned smoking in public places. However, as a two-year grace period was granted to pubs and restaurants, the difference is as-yet unnoticeable.

The survey showed that average nicotine levels in low-tar cigarettes had risen slightly, while tar content had dropped a tiny amount.

Hong Kong has relatively few smokers – only about 14 percent, or 800,000 of the city’s seven million people – have the habit.

Nonetheless, a Hong Kong University study estimates that 1,324 non-smokers’ deaths were caused last year from heart, vascular and lung diseases, and cancers strongly associated with breathing secondhand smoke.

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