The government said on Monday that it wants to allow shipments of illegal vaping products through Hong Kong, to help the city keep its status as an international logistics hub.
The Transport and Logistics Bureau told a Legco panel that there has been a significant downturn in air cargo volumes since the ban on the import, sale and manufacture of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products took effect in April.
At a Legco panel meeting, Deputy Secretary for Transport and Logistics Pamela Lam said authorities want to exempt sea-to-air shipments of the goods from the ban.
"Our transshipment of air cargo has dropped from May to October this year by about 18 percent compared to the same period last year. If this trend continues, Hong Kong's status as an international logistics hub will be seriously undermined. So whilst we want to ensure the ban on importation of alternative smoking products, we would like to keep our status as an international logistics hub," she said.
Lawmaker Frankie Yick, who represents the logistics sector, said the authorities should go further and also allow illegal vaping products to be brought to Hong Kong by land.
"People in the trade would like to have the land-air transshipment to be allowed as well, this is very important because most of the products are made in Dongguan area. It's more convenient and cheaper to transport that via land to Hong Kong International Airport," he told reporters.
Another lawmaker, Jeffrey Lam, questioned why the authorities hadn't realised sooner how logistics companies would be affected by the ban.
"When you drew up this piece of legislation, you should have taken all these into account," he said. "Why did you not think about this long ago? You shouldn't be talking about this only at this moment," he said.
A bill amending the law to allow the sea-to-air shipments is expected to be tabled to Legco early next year.