Last updated: August 8, 2022
China became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on January 9, 2006. Hong Kong, as a Special Administrative Region of China, is bound by China’s ratification of the treaty.
Smoke Free Places
Smoking is prohibited in indoor public places and workplaces. The only exceptions to the smoking ban are: hotel rooms, designated areas in airports and correctional/detention facilities, and tasting rooms in cigar shops. Public transport is smoke free with one limited exception: if a bus or taxi is hired as a whole by a private party, smoking is allowed in the vehicle.
Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship
Tobacco advertising is broadly banned under the law. The law provides a list of promotional practices that are prohibited, which allows for other promotional practices or leaves uncertain whether those other promotional practices are allowed. There are few restrictions on tobacco sponsorship and the publicity of such sponsorship.
Tobacco Packaging and Labeling
Pictorial health warnings are required for all packets and retail containers of cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and cigarette tobacco. Warnings included both images and text and must occupy 85 percent of both principal display areas (PDAs); Chinese language on one PDA and English language on the other PDA. The government has issued 12 combined picture-and-text warnings, which must appear with equal frequency during any continuous 24-month period. Smokeless tobacco products are prohibited in Hong Kong. Misleading terms, descriptors, and other such signs suggesting that one brand is less harmful than another are prohibited.
Cigarette Contents and Disclosures
The law does not grant the authority to regulate the contents of cigarettes. The law does not require that manufacturers and importers disclose to government authorities information on the contents and emissions of their products.
The law prohibits the sale of tobacco products via vending machines. The law also prohibits the sale of single cigarettes, small packets of cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco products. There are no restrictions on the sale of tobacco products based on location. The sale of tobacco products is prohibited to persons under the age of 18.
The law prohibits the import, manufacture, sale, and possession for commercial purposes of e-cigarettes. In addition, the restrictions on smoking in public places, workplaces, and public transport apply to the use of e-cigarettes. Similarly, the restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship apply to e-cigarettes.
Heated Tobacco Products
The import, manufacture, sale, and possession for commercial purposes of “alternative smoking products,” which, by definition, includes heated tobacco products (HTPs) is prohibited. Existing smoking restrictions apply to HTPs. The law prohibits most forms of advertising and promotion for HTPs, but allows for other promotional practices or leaves uncertain whether those other promotional practices are allowed.
Roadmap to Tobacco Control Legislation
Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap 371) is the primary tobacco control law in Hong Kong. The Ordinance covers many areas of tobacco control policy, including, but not limited to, public smoking restrictions; packaging and labeling of tobacco products; tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; sales to minors; and and bans the import, manufacture, sale, and possession for commercial purposes of e-cigarettes and HTPs. The Smoking (Public Health) Regulations (Cap 371A, 371B, 371D) were issued under the Ordinance and contain a schedule with a list of smoke free public transportation terminals (371D), and regulations on tobacco packaging and labeling (371A, 371B). Penalties for smoking in public are set out in Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offenses) Ordinance (Cap 600). Other penalties for tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and packaging and labeling requirements are contained in the Ordinance.
There are other laws that are not directly related to tobacco control but impact some aspects of tobacco control. Specifically, the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374D) set forth the limited exception to smoking in taxis and buses when privately hired. The Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap 132) contains a list of smoke free outdoor “public pleasure grounds” in Hong Kong. The Smokeless Tobacco Products (Prohibition) Regulations are issued under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance. The Aviation Security Ordinance (Cap 494) contains aircraft regulations, including prohibitions on smoking in aircraft.
The Special Administrative Region’s legal measures were reviewed by our legal staff in consultation with lawyers or tobacco control experts from Hong Kong (SAR).