MALAYSIAN-based think-tank DARE (Datametrics Research & Information Centre) has launched a report entitled “Clearing the Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction” which revealed that the adoption of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategies can be a game-changer in managing the smoking prevalence in Malaysia which has remained largely stagnant for over a decade.
Analysis completed by DARE revealed that vape alone, through regulations and promoting smokers to switch to vape as a less harmful alternative, can reduce the smoking population in Malaysia to 4.0 million by 2025.
Further, the report estimated that vape will help the country to reduce its healthcare spend on treating smoking-related diseases by RM1.3 bil in 2025 alone.
According to DARE managing director Pankaj Kumar, the data is derived using calculation models and studies by credible international agencies like Public Health England and Cochrane Review.
“Our findings clearly show that Malaysia will be able to reap tangible results from embracing THR and developing sensible regulations for less harmful products is important to help the country achieve this agenda,” he remarked.
“As a start, DARE recommends that Malaysia differentiates tobacco products from less harmful products such as vape, which have proven scientifically as a less harmful alternative and effective to help smokers to quit by switching.
“Steps must also be taken to ensure that these less harmful products are regulated to ensure high standards of manufacturing, safety, product information, quality, and efficacy.
“In developing regulations, DARE recommends a risk-proportionate approach, with regulators imposing restrictions in proportion to the risk to health posed by the product.
“For example, traditional cigarettes would have warnings for smokers, but vaping products should have subtle messages about the value of switching.”
To curate local data for the report, a perception survey was conducted in Sept 2021, which revealed that 80% Malaysians believe that the adoption of THR strategies in the country will help smokers quit traditional cigarettes as they will be able to switch to less harmful alternatives.
An overwhelming majority (95%) said that the Malaysian government must be involved in implementing THR strategies in Malaysia.
The findings from this report are timely as Malaysia is at the cusp of introducing regulations for vape in Malaysia.
This will follow the implementation of a taxation framework which was announced during the tabling of the 2022 Budget.
“By all means, Malaysia must continue existing programmes to reduce the smoking prevalence in Malaysia,” Pankaj explained.
“However, leaders must also be open to exploring new science-based solutions that have proven to be effective in countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
“We must look at the trends in our country and determine the best strategies that can be developed into a framework that fits our reality.
“With a concerted effort, we can reduce the demand for tobacco, minimise harm, reduce costs to health systems and ultimately, save lives.” – Jan 21, 2022