IN the UK, where smoking remains the leading cause of death, a select committee report calling for a closer look at vaping is likely to light up another heated debate elsewhere, including in Malaysia, on why governments should make e-cigarette more accessible to smokers trying to quit the habit.
The report was prepared by the select committee on science and technology which concluded that relaxing vaping laws would cut smoking deaths.
The committee is strongly recommending that their government revisit the ban on vaping in public places (including on buses and trains) as well as reducing taxes to make vaping cheaper.
“The blunt fact is that 79,000 people in England still die of smoking every year, which is sort of unconscionable, particularly when we know there is the means by which we can reduce the death toll,” Sir Norman Lamb, chairman of the select committee, was quoted by the Guardian.
The report follows the publication of a National Health Service (NHS) figures showing the number of people engaging with stop smoking services has fallen by 11 per cent, the sixth consecutive year there has been a drop.
The Local Government Association, whose members have the responsibility for the services, and the campaigning group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), say local authorities are not being adequately funded.’
According to the Guardian, the MPs’ report says it is thought that 2.9 million people in the UK are using e-cigarettes to try to stop smoking and “tens of thousands’ are successfully quitting each year thanks to vaping.
The report acknowledges that not enough is known about the possible harms and calls for more research into e-cigarettes and the “heat-not-burn” tobacco products that are becoming available.
But it dismisses concerns, which have been very vocal in the US, that children will try e-cigarettes, get hooked on nicotine and start to smoke.
Lamb said the argument “doesn’t hold water”. The number of children who try e-cigarettes is “tiny”, he was quoted as saying.
“Smoking remains a national health crisis and the government should be considering innovative ways of reducing the smoking rate,” Lamb was quoted as saying in a statement.
“E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so.”
According to the Guardian, the report calls for the government and the medicines and healthcare products regulatory agency to work with the industry on ways to streamline the process for e-cigarettes to obtain a medical licence so they can be prescribed on the NHS.
Lamb says that Brexit offers an opportunity for the UK to make its own rules on e-cigarettes and not be bound by EU regulation. He wants a review of the ban on “snus”, oral tobacco wads that are banned across Europe with the exception of Sweden, where they are made and where only 5 per cent of people smoke.
The Select Committee’s report has drawn enthusiastic response.
Prof Robert West, the director of tobacco studies at University College London, told Guardian that while the report may be seen by some as radical in recommending action to facilitate the use of e-cogarettes, “from the point of view of a scientist working in the field it is a welcome and common sense translation of the evidence base into a program of action”.
“I hope it will have a major impact on the evolution of policy,” he added.
Daniel Pryor, of the Adam Smith Institute, said the report was “fantastic news for public health and consumer choice”.
Permitting advertising to consumers was an important proposal. “The majority of UK smokers don’t know that the e-cigarettes are significantly safer than smoking,” he added.
The legal status of e-cigarettes is currently pending in many countries, according to Wikipedia.
Many countries such as Brazil, Singapore, the Seychelles, and Uruguay have banned e-cigarettes.
In Canada, they are technically illegal to sell, as no nicotine-containing e-cigarette is approved by Health Canada, but this is generally unenforced and they are commonly available for sale Canada-wide.
In the US and the UK, the use and sale to adults of e-cigarettes are legal.
At the height of the Malaysian vaping debate In 2015, the National Fatwa Council issued an edict declaring e-cigarettes haram (forbidden) because of their harmful health effects and bad smell.
Though the fatwa is not legally binding, it carries weight for religious Muslims and led to the ban on vaping in four states.
In Johor, the Sultan had ordered the ban on vaping himself. He had given vape outlets in the state a month to shut down their business or face the wrath of the state’s law.
The Malaysian federal government began regulating e-liquid ingredients and vape sales to minors at the start of 2018, marking the first federal regulations of the RM2.5 billion industry.