MSHR: Reassess GEG on vape as more smokers are switching to vape

THE Malaysian Society for Harm Reduction (MSHR) has urged the Government to re-assess its Generation Endgame (GEG) measure on vape given its potential in helping the Government curb smoking prevalence in Malaysia.

Recall that Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had expressed the unity government’s support towards the GEG policy initiated by the previous administration during the re-tabling of Budget 2023 on Feb 24.

“There are more and more smokers switching to vape to quit smoking cigarettes. Local studies have shown that many vape users are smokers and that the occurrence of non-smokers using vape are very rare,” commented MSHR’s chairman Professor Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh.

Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh

“Additionally, the top reasons cited in those studies are that vape users are using them to quit smoking cigarettes (88%) or cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke (91%). The potential of vape in reducing smoking prevalence is huge in Malaysia and cannot be ignored.”

Based on estimates, Dr Sharifa Ezat said the rate of smokers in Malaysia will decrease from 5 million in 2019 to 4 million in 2025 due to various reasons, including the use of vape.

“These statistics are in line with data from several countries that look to vape as a strategy to reduce the risk of smoking cigarettes, in addition to nicotine replacement therapy,” stressed the community health physician and health economics specialist from the Faculty of Medicine Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

“This is an undeniable fact and based on this data, MSHR believes that GEG can be counter- productive as it positions vape to be equally harmful as cigarettes and tobacco. This will send the wrong message to smokers, who might be deterred from switching to vape.”

As a solution, MSHR suggested that the government regulate vape, provide training to vendors on proper switching to NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and vape if necessary.

“It is important that the government is advised by independent health experts and makes decision that is based on science and evidence. While vaping has health risk, we cannot ignore scientific evidence that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking,” insisted Dr Sharifa Ezat.

“There are several reputable public health organisations that have made that estimate and endorsed by multiple developed countries. In addition, vape is also recognised as an effective tool to reduce smoking hazard and rates.”

MSHR also urged the government to quickly introduce regulations under existing laws to regulate vape products. This is to ensure the products are regulated and to prevent misuse and abuse of the products as well as prevent access by the underage.

“Legislative process for new bill will take lengthy time. In addition, a bill should not be tabled without detailed discussion and studies on proposed GEG measure that was proposed by the previous minister,” opined Dr Sharifa Ezat.

“In view of this, we believe the government should take immediate steps to regulate vape products using existing laws to speed up regulations on the products to protect consumers from prohibited ingredients by introducing standards on product as well as prohibit access by minors.” – March 4, 2023

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