Vape is vital to achieve tobacco ‘endgame’, says expert

VAPE can play a crucial role in helping Malaysia achieve its Tobacco Endgame 2040 goal and this is why it is crucial to get vaping regulations right, said an expert in smoking cessation. 

According to Dr Colin Mendelsohn, the author of evidence-based self-help guide Stop Smoking Start Vaping, vaping is a far safer alternative to smoking and is the most popular and effective quitting aid available and must be an important part of the strategy to achieve the Tobacco Endgame 2040. 

“It should be encouraged as a quitting aid for the many Malaysian adult smokers who are unable to quit with other methods, as is the case in the United Kingdom and New Zealand,” he told FocusM. 

The Government’s Tobacco Endgame 2040 is a strategy to make Malaysia a tobacco-free nation by 2040.  

As part of this, the Government plans to prohibit the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, vape, and e-cigarettes to people born after 2005. 

But Dr Mendelsohn, who is a member of the committee that develops the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ national smoking cessation guidelines, said that vaping actually has the potential to have the greatest effect on reducing smoking rates compared to other forms of intervention.  

“It is highly unlikely that Malaysia will reach its zero-tobacco goal by 2040 without it,” he added. 

Dr Colin Mendelsohn

 Therefore, it was important for vaping to be regulated and for standards to be established for product and manufacturing quality and labelling as well as for the chemical ingredients allowed. 

In New Zealand, where its government is also aiming to achieve tobacco endgame, it has been conclusively agreed that an approach by getting smokers to switch to less harmful products such as vape will present a better opportunity to achieve a tobacco free nation status by 2025. 

Rules are also needed on public vaping and age of sale while a system of reporting harmful effects and recalls for unsafe products must be introduced, said Dr Mendelsohn. 

“Regulations for vaping need to strike a balance between making high quality, regulated products available for adult smokers while restricting access to young people who do not smoke,” he noted. 

“Restrictions on vaping should be proportionate to risk as vaping is far less harmful than smoking.”  

On taxation, Dr Mendelsohn, who has over 27 years of experience in this area, said it has to be kept at a minimum to incentivise smokers to switch to vaping. 

“The UK Royal College of Physicians suggests that tax should be about 5% of tobacco.” 

During Budget 2022, the Malaysian Government announced an increase in tax on vape e-liquids by 200% from RM0.40 per millilitre to RM1.20 per millilitre starting January 1, 2022. 

The implementation has since been put on hold and the Government has indicated that the implementation will take place only when a regulatory framework has been put in place.  

“Vaping is not risk-free, but there is now good evidence it is far less harmful than smoking. 

“For smokers who can’t quit with other methods, vaping can be lifesaving. Adult smokers should be able to readily access the safer alternative and should be encouraged to do so,” he said, emphasising that regulations should not act as a barrier to access vaping. – Feb 16, 2022 

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