LETTERS: Regulation of e-cigarettes and smoke-free nicotine products became a major topic at the virtual Global Forum on Nicotine 2020 (GFN 2020), themed “Nicotine: Science, Ethics and Human Rights”, as advocates seek a more promising solution for smokers to quit.
The forum, held on June 11 and 12, saw 30 experts speak with one goal: to provide a safe and transparent industry for smokers and those planning to make the switch to alternative tobacco products.
Discussions started with how attacks on the tobacco harm reduction (THR) movement has been intensified with fake news, misleading studies and unethical media campaigns. Also highlighted was that consumers needed to be truthfully and wholly informed of the life-saving potential of vaping.
Anaesthesiologist Dr John Oyston spoke on the importance of a patient-centred approach.
He said: “I believe tobacco is the real pandemic. Even in this plague year, tobacco is on track to kill five times as many people as Covid-19. “E-cigarettes are by far many times safer than combustible cigarettes and it makes no sense for us to allow people to continue smoking cigarettes.”
Dr Oyston, who has nearly 40 years of medical practice experience, said e-cigarettes could save about six million lives in the United States.
“The global tobacco industry makes US$62 billion in profit and at the cost of seven million deaths every year. They accept the death of half of their customers as a sacrifice they have to pay to make money.”
Conference director Professor Gerry Stinson said nicotine was among the top three most favourite drugs globally, highlighting that it was the combustion that causes the problem.
Stinson, from Imperial College London and formerly part of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said if nicotine was separated from the cigarette, it gave smokers a potential to switch away from smoking.
He, however, said smokers continued to be misled by campaigns against THR. Professor David Sweanor echoed the same idea, saying that advocates, experts and stakeholders needed to use the principles of reason, science and humanism to look at what is available and work out what could be done.
Stinson and Sweanor stated that consumers would likely switch to vaping if it was cheaper and more accessible compared with cigarettes. Sweanor reiterated that separating nicotine from cigarette was safer.
The forum agreed that regulations for nicotine products were vital to avoid a repeat of the national outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, and product use-associated lung injury crisis that took over the United States last year.
Director of Pro-Vapeo Mexico, Dr Roberto A. Sussman, said certain parties had taken advantage of the crisis to spread misinformation and fear about vaping.
More than 30 countries have banned e-cigarettes, including Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. Up to April last year, Malaysia’s former health minister announced a new bill, adding that tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes were regulated under different directives.
He stated that the new bill would underline all regulations and controls on e-cigarettes and vapes, including sales guidelines.
But there has been no update on this issue following the change in government.