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Khairy: I’ve Had Enough Of Tobacco Harm Reduction

KUALA LUMPUR – Caretaker Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin denounced claims that vapes or e-cigarettes are safe for use and has reinstated his belief that efforts to deny those born from 2007 from ever purchasing cigarettes should include vape.

Khairy ruled out calls to recognise vape as a harm reduction tool for individuals born from January 1, 2007, saying that a generational end game (GEG) to smoking or vaping would mean that no one from the cohort, who are non-smokers, would need vape to quit smoking.

“Seriously, I’ve had enough of this harm reduction,” Khairy said at the launch of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Management of E-Cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).

“Even if we do accept a small part of the argument from the group (Malaysia Society for Harm Reduction or MSHR) that okay, maybe, you want to change from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes, the harm is less – okay, we can accept that logic.

“But we can’t use the same logic for non-smokers. Some say we can do GEG for tobacco cigarettes but not for vape or e-cigarettes like what is being done in New Zealand. It means that those born from 2007 can still purchase or have access to vape or e-cigarettes.

“That doesn’t make sense. If you truly believe in harm reduction, it (the strategy) applies to those who are smoking. Those who are aged under 18, they are not supposed to be smoking, so why would you want them to initiate (vaping).

“There is no such thing as harm reduction for those born [from 2007] because they are not supposed to be smoking. So why should there be harm reduction for the next generation? I really don’t get the logic of the MSHR that we have to look at harm reduction, and we should not rush in including GEG (for vaping).

“No, this is all B-S lah because, you know, you’re not supposed to have harm reduction for children. They are not supposed to be smoking in the first place,” Khairy said.

Khairy said the clinical practice guidelines for EVALI is proof that vape or e-cigarettes are not without harm.

“There shouldn’t be any doubts about EVALI. Some groups claim that EVALI does not exist, and this has been the argument for those who supposedly believe in a harm reduction approach – that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes – when scientific evidence has shown that vape or e-cigarettes are not zero risk. They are harmful.

“So the myth that we have to defeat is that e-cigarettes or vape are safe,” Khairy said.

EVALI was first diagnosed in the United States in 2019 when over 2,800 cases of lung injuries and 68 deaths associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In Malaysia, a total of 14 EVALI cases have been reported from 2019 until September 2022.

Khairy said the estimated average cost to treat a hospitalised EVALI patient for four days is RM50,297.37. “If there is no early intervention to prevent this habit, surely the burden on the government for bearing the cost to treat e-cigarette health complications will increase.”

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