Listen out for #Hashtag Hong Kong, on Sunday mornings. Our new programme updates the old format and content of Letter to Hong Kong.
The focus will be on issues affecting civil society, as we hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies and non-profit groups.
And each week there'll also be a musical choice*!
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
*The song is not included in its entity in the podcast due to copyright issue.
The Hong Kong Lung Foundation is a charitable organization, run by a group of experienced Specialists in Respiratory Medicine since 1996. The objectives of the Foundation include enhancement of professional development of respiratory-related health care professionals and promotion of respiratory health in Hong Kong. One of the key activities of the Foundation is to provide public education on contemporary issues relating to various lung conditions.
The negative impact of smoking as a cause of various health problems has been very well known for decades. These include lung infections (e.g. pneumonia, tuberculosis), cancers (e.g. lung cancer), lung function decline (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), coronary artery disease, stoke etc. Despite global conjoint efforts in the battle against tobacco use, many parts of the world (especially those low-income countries) are still heavily affected by high smoking prevalence. World No Tobacco Day on 31 May is an annual initiative under the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against the tobacco epidemic.
In Hong Kong, we have witnessed a decreasing trend of smoking prevalence over the years, but it has become rather stagnant over the last couple of years at around 10% of people aged 15 years or above. Apart from conventional tobacco products, the newly emerged electronic cigarettes (E-cigarettes) have posed worrisome health hazards to communities across the globe including Hong Kong. E-cigarettes appear in various trendy devices and the vapour comes in many different flavours. The manufacturing companies have tried to promote E-cigarettes with a completely different image from conventional tobacco products, emphasizing what they say is their low health risks and benefits in favouring smoking cessation. In particular, this marketing strategy targets teenagers and youngsters, who may not be able to perceive serious health hazards in disguise. In recent years, many scientific reports have already identified toxic chemicals from E-cigarettes as potential carcinogens leading to cancer development. Inhalation of these chemicals from heated devices have led to reported cases of serious lung injury in the United States and elsewhere. The long-term consequences of vaping are still undefined, but very likely result in irreversible damage to lung function. With the current marketing strategy of E-cigarettes, it is anticipated that more and more children and adolescents may start picking up the smoking habit with E-cigarettes, leading to a new wave of the smoking epidemic. As a result, the Government of the Hong Kong SAR has just banned the importation and sale of E-cigarettes starting from the end of April.
One of the long-term effects of cigarette smoking is the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), i.e. emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This is a result of inflammation and destruction of airways and lungs, leading to progressive decline in lung function which will limit daily activities. Over the years, COPD has remained a common condition among smokers especially those above 40 years of age and it is often undiagnosed in the early stages. The non-specific symptoms of chronic cough, sputum production and shortness of breath are often accepted norms in smokers, leading to delayed diagnosis and management until complications arise. In fact, COPD is a single medical condition that accounts for a winter surge of overwhelming hospital admissions due to acute attacks. Apart from early pharmacological treatment, the most notable measure to abort the rapid lung function loss in COPD remains smoking cessation which should be advocated no matter what stage of disease that the subjects are experiencing.
In order to reduce morbidity and mortality related to smoking, the Hong Kong Government should focus on several measures. Effective anti-smoking education, especially targeting vulnerable groups like teenagers, is crucial. Resources allocated specifically in the development and research of novel techniques in effective public education may need to be increased. Following the recent ban on importation and sale of E-cigarettes, strategies on preventing illegal importation will become important. It would be far better to take stringent steps now to ensure no access to E-cigarettes among teenagers before this has become an established habit. Regarding tobacco products, increased taxation remains an effective measure to reduce the smoking prevalence in the community.
With the concerted efforts of all people in Hong Kong and the policymakers, we should continue aiming at a further reduction in smoking among the population.
Letter for RTHK ‘#impact”:
The New Year is a time of reflection, a time for change… it’s about new beginnings, new intentions, new opportunities.
Yet for many of us, thanks mainly to powerful consumer marketing, it has boiled down to basically just mean: ‘new stuff.’
And with clothing, like with many consumer products, this interpretation is disastrous for our society and planet’s wellbeing.
Fashion is one of the most powerful industries in the world. Everyone on earth wears clothes – all six billion of us – which means that fashion operates on an inherently troubling scale.
About a hundred billion garments are produced each year, or almost 200,000 per minute. I did a quick unscientific calculation and that’s roughly enough clothing to wrap around the Earth’s equator… 1,248 times.
I think it’s worth reflecting on the impact of this, because a lot of us don't relate our fashion impulses to our environmental footprint. So here are a few more statistics to help paint the picture:
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of clean water in the world.
It contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined.
It takes 10 square metres of land to grow the cotton for one pair of jeans.
And up to 3 kilograms of chemicals to produce 1 kilogram of cotton.
Around 70 million barrels of oil a year are used to make polyester.
About 150 million trees are cut each year to produce fibres for clothing.
Now, you would think with the vast amount of natural resource that is sacrificed to make them, our clothes would be precious to us.
But unfortunately, we know that's not the case.
Instead, globally one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned every second. And less than 1% of material used to make clothing is recycled into new clothing at the end of its life.
In Hong Kong alone, we landfill around 340 tonnes of textiles per day – and roughly half of it is clothing.
Meanwhile, fast fashion keeps pumping out new cheaply-made clothes and we keep buying it.
Our clothing habits are costing far more than what’s on the price tag. But there is hope – the fashion industry is starting to shift gears. And as individuals, we can all help.
Here are some ways to set the right kind of intentions this lunar new year.
We all love a good clearout; out with the old, in with the new. But ‘out’ doesn’t need to mean ‘throw it away.’ There are other ways to deal with clothes that aren’t working for you any longer:
We are fortunate to live in a city with heaps of skilled tailors and seamstresses, use them to alter old clothes for a better fit or style.
Give clothes to family or friends. Hold swap parties. Sell, on resale platforms like Hula and Retykle.
Please don’t just drop a bag of mixed clothes on the doorstep of your local charity, unannounced. The charities often don’t have the manpower to sort through donations one by one and find what they can use, and it can end up being a burden on them and going to the landfill anyway.
If you can’t find your clothes a new owner, then Redress can help you. Drop off your unwanted clothing in one of our public collection boxes and we will find homes or solutions for them, based on their quality and condition. The majority of what we receive gets redistributed to those same local charities – but we only send them exactly what they need and ask for. Reducing the burden on them.
Of course, sometimes you just need, or want, some new clothes – and new year’s is a peak time for this. But if we reframe ‘new’ as ‘new to me’, it opens a whole world of sustainable shopping! I’m talking about the burgeoning secondhand market that’s the hottest trend in fashion retail. There are already dozens of places to buy stylish preloved clothes in Hong Kong – we have a whole list on our website! And it's affordable, super sustainable, and fun.
But ultimately, the most sustainable thing you can wear is what’s already in your closet. So this lunar new year, try on a new… perspective! Give your own clothes a new life -- and find ways to love and wear what you have already. Because our clothes ARE precious.