THE Advanced Centre for Addiction Treatment Advocacy (ACATA) has expressed disappointment over multiple clauses in the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 which forbid any act to encourage smokers to switch to vape products as means to quit smoking.
Additionally, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) also questioned the ban on educational activities to create awareness on tobacco harm reduction with the aim to encourage smokers to quit smoking via vaping.
For context, multiple clauses in the Bill that was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday (Nov 28) for first reading prohibit promotion of vape products as quit smoking products.
To the dismay of tobacco harm reduction advocates, Section 9 of the Bill even prohibits arrangement, including holding any activities in the form of course, workshop, forum, roadshow, consultation or event that would lead to encouraging smokers to switch to vape or promoting vape products as smoking cessation tool.
“Tobacco harm reduction in Malaysia would be dead once the bill passes,” commented ACATA’s president Dr Arifin Fii. “Anyone who says quit smoking with vaping or conducts any educational activities or discussion on vape products as effective smoking cessation tool will commit an offence.”
Elaborating further, Dr Arifin is concerned that activities on tobacco harm reduction has been criminalised as the penalties include not only fines but also imprisonment.
“It is important to have regulations to safeguard public health especially to prevent access to minors. But the decision to prohibit the dissemination of information regarding vape as a quit smoking tool is a regressive and counter-productive measure that threatens the very essence of public health,” he opined.
“The scientific consensus is clear – vaping has the potential to serve as a harm reduction tool for smokers seeking less harmful alternative to traditional tobacco products.”
As such, denying smokers access to information that encourages them to switch to less harmful products and quit smoking is not only counterintuitive but also goes against the principles of evidence-based public health policy, according to Arifin.
“ACATA strongly urges the government and MPs to amend clauses in the Bill to allow promotion of vape products as quit smoking products targeted at smokers and lift the ban on educational activities related to tobacco harm reduction,” he asserted.
“This is to enable five million smokers in Malaysia today to have access to scientifically proven information on tobacco harm reduction and that vape products can be an effective smoking cessation tool for them.” – Nov 29, 2023
Main pic credit: Chemnovatic