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Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette)

1. What is e-cigarette?

E-cigarette is an electronic device which resembles a cigarette or cigar. A typical e-cigarette has a cartridge for storing a liquid which vaporises and delivers to the lungs of the user with a chemical mixture typically composed of nicotine, propylene glycol and other unknown chemicals. Some e-cigarettes are being claimed that they do not contain any nicotine or tar.

E-cigarette is usually powered by a rechargeable battery. Users inhale the fine, heated mist produced by the e-cigarette.

2. What can be the health effects of e-cigarette?

Most e-cigarette cartridges contain propylene glycol, which is a known irritant when inhaled. Propylene glycol may irritate eye and respiratory tract.1 As e-cigarette cartridges may also contain various concentrations of nicotine, use of e-cigarette may cause nicotine dependence and constriction of blood vessels. In addition, some toxic substances such as carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines2 and formaldehyde-releasing chemical3 were also detected in some e-cigarettes, according to some overseas research.

3. Is it illegal to smoke e-cigarette in Hong Kong?

Cigarette smoking (including e-cigarette) is banned in no smoking areas under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Chapter 371, Laws of Hong Kong). No smoking areas include all indoor public areas and some outdoor areas such as school campus, public parks and beaches. Offenders are subject to a fixed penalty of fine $1,500.

4. Is the sale and procession of e-cigarette regulated in Hong Kong?

Under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Chapter 138, Laws of Hong Kong), nicotine is a Part I poison. E-cigarette containing nicotine is regarded as pharmaceutical product and must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board before sale or distribution. Possession or sale of unregistered pharmaceutical product, and the possession or sale without authority of Part I poison, are both offences. Each offence shall be liable on conviction to maximum penalty of $100,000 fine and 2 years’ imprisonment.

5. Is e-cigarette an effective smoking cessation product?

In August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report on e-cigarette which expresses the evidence for the effectiveness of e-cigarette as a method for quitting smoking is limited and is currently considered inconclusive. So far, no e-cigarette has yet been evaluated and approved for smoking cessation by any governmental agency at the moment. 1

Any e-cigarette containing nicotine as smoking cessation product must satisfy the criteria of efficacy, safety and quality for approval of registration by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (the Board) before sale in Hong Kong. Detail of control measures including import and export, trading licence and product registration of pharmaceutical products can be browsed at Drug Office’s website at

If you need any assistance or information on smoking cessation, please contact us at 1833 183.

Recommendations of the World Health Organization

The sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in October 2014 had discussed the above report.1 Parties were invited to consider prohibiting or regulating e-cigarette, including as tobacco products, medicinal products, consumer products, or other categories, as appropriate, and urged to consider banning or restricting advertising, promotion and sponsorship of e-cigarette.


  1. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Electronic nicotine delivery system.
  2. US Food and Drug Administration. Evaluation of e-cigarettes.
  3. Jensen RP, et al. Hidden formaldehyde in e-cigarette aerosols. N Engl J Med. 2015; 372:392-4.


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