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‘Vaping a growing epidemic’

PETALING JAYA: Vaping is now becoming a growing epidemic, health experts say as they call for more stringent controls.

They agreed with a motion raised by members of the British Medical Association (BMA) during its recent meeting on the use of ecigarette becoming a growing epidemic.

Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) chairman Dr Murallitharan Munisamy said that even those who had never smoked a cigarette previously are now vaping.

This, he said, is due to the false marketing narrative that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes.

He also noted that smokers who were smoking conventional cigarettes are now both smoking and vaping.

“This is a nightmare for us because at the fundamental level, vaping or smoking is about the usage of nicotine.

“Nicotine is a highly harmful and dangerous substance, irrespective of how it is being delivered, whether it is through conventional cigarettes or vaping devices.

“For the group who has never smoked, they shouldn’t be starting. It is a slippery slope.

“What is also worrying is that we are finding that over time, people who actually start off as vapers are moving to conventional cigarettes for a better high,” he said.

Dr Murallitharan said countries such as Britain, Australia and New Zealand had also come to a realisation that they had made a “tremendous mistake” by letting vape be widely available without regulation.

To curb this problem back at home, he said legislative controls, including policies, regulation, awareness and education, must be put in place.

“We need to start putting in regulations. First, we need to put in really strong regulations but, of course, that needs to be supported by strong education, promotional and awareness measures that vape should not be made accessible to young people below 18.

“I think at the very least, the equivalent control for conventional cigarettes should apply to vape.

“We have made a big mistake in terms of degazetting nicotine,” he said, adding that the item is now available to children legally.

“Hopefully, there is a new law that comes in which is much more comprehensive.

“I understand that there are elements of regulatory control for vape within the new proposed law.

“If it does come to pass, of course that is the beginning step (and there is) a lot of work to be done.”

Public health advocate and former Health Ministry official Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said vaping is considered a new and growing epidemic due to poor regulation and its increasing popularity among young people although this could lead to potential health risks and addiction.

Besides increasing awareness through education campaigns, he said support and resources should also be made available to those wanting to quit.

“There should be more counselling, support programmes and resources to help individuals quit vaping and manage nicotine addiction,” he said.

He also called for more research and surveillance to understand the trend of vaping and on cases of ecigarette or vaping associated with lung injury (E-Vali) and other long-term health effects, as well as strategies to effectively address the problem.

The BMA is set to review the dangers posed by ecigarettes after a motion of warning was passed in its annual representative meeting on July 5.

Calling vaping a growing public health epidemic, the motion called on the BMA’s board of science to review the dangers of vaping and discuss restrictions on marketing and cracking down on illegal sales to children.

The motion also proposed for doctors to include the history of e-nicotine use as a “regular and essential” part of patient history and examination.

According to reports, the last time the BMA issued a position paper on vaping was in 2017.

Source: The Star

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