A TOBACCO Harm Reduction (THR) forum held at the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Association Malaysia (FPMPAM) recently called upon the Malaysian government to consider adopting harm reduction strategies coupled with regulations for vape products rather than imposing a blanket ban as underlined in the Generation End Game (GEG) policy.
This sentiment was shared by the participants during the forum which was attended by about 200 medical practitioners.
Speaking at the meeting, the Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia (AMAM) organising chairman and president Dr Steven Chow said harm reduction approaches have shown significant promise in reducing the harms associated with tobacco use worldwide.
“It is essential for Malaysia to consider these strategies, particularly for medically regulated vape products as they can help mitigate the risks associated with smoking traditional cigarettes,” he contended.
“It is clear from previous experiences in Malaysia that using prohibitive measures such as the GEG to counter an addiction will not work.”
Instead, Chow said harm reduction measures which are backed by medical expertise can play a crucial role in promoting public health and assisting smokers in transitioning to less harmful alternatives.
“Harm reduction strategies should also include providing smokers with access to alternative nicotine delivery systems that are less harmful than combustible cigarettes,” he pointed out.
“These strategies include regulation of vape products to ensure safety, providing accurate information to consumers and offering smoking cessation support for those who wish to quit altogether.”
Universiti Malaya Centre for Addiction Science Studies (UMCAS) advisor Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil who gave the keynote address “THR: The Way Ahead” echoed a similar sentiment.
“GEG has not been implemented anywhere in the world for vape products and therefore leaves us with no reliable data that we can use to determine its effectiveness. On the other hand, there is plenty data on harm reduction strategies,” he observed.
“Globally, harm reduction strategies have demonstrated remarkable success in reducing the harm caused by tobacco use. Countries like the UK and New Zealand have embraced these approaches and have seen a decline in smoking rates as smokers transition to less harmful alternatives such as vape.”
Added Dr Hussain: “These international case studies must be studied by the Malaysian government and considered in our strategy to reduce smoking incidence.”
The THR Forum further urged the government to take a balance approach in making important decisions and policies on vape.
“The government needs to strike a balance when it comes to policies to ensure that smokers are given the right messages and opportunities to quit smoking and at the same time prevent the underage from picking up the habit,” reckoned Chow.
“The message needs to be clear that THR can help smokers quit smoking and the government should have policies to include all options that have been proven to work.” – Oct 3, 2023