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Concerns over survey on benefits of e-cigs

Experts have expressed their concerns over a recent survey on the implied benefits of e-cigs or vaping.

A researcher said 95% of Malaysian vapers surveyed have either quit, or cut down on smoking, while more than 80% of them reported improved health.

“More than two-thirds stopped smoking altogether.

“Among the 27% that didn’t quit, the average consumption of cigarettes dropped from 19 to four cigarettes per day,” Greek cardiologist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, a researcher at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center and University of Patras, told The Star.

Over the 7,000 adult vapers – 97% of them males – participated in the online survey. The average age of the respondents was 30.

Universiti Malaya nicotine addiction specialist Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin voiced his concern that a single survey conducted on mainly Internet users was inadequate to change the understanding on the dangers or benefits of e-cigs.

“Let’s see the ongoing national study findings and compare with Dr Farsalinos’ data.

“If e-cigs are found to be a useful quit-smoking agent in future, it should be regulated as a medicinal device.

“Still, abstinence is the best way to quit,” he said, adding that nicotine was under the Poison Act and its distribution should be controlled.

Over 5,500 ex-smokers and more than 1,500 smokers, who are also vapers, were asked about their experiences with e-cigs and the results were consistent with those in the US and Europe.

Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Muttalif, chairman of the Health Ministry’s technical committee on e-cigs and shisha, said the long-term effect of e-cigs was still unknown.

“As doctors, we’re very careful,” said Dr Abdul Razak, who is also a senior consultant chest physician at the KL Hospital Institute of Respiratory Medicine.

He warned that e-cigs had long-term effects and could lead to other addictions.

The committee had recommended that e-cigs be strictly regulated as a pharmaceutical product in Malaysia.

Describing the move as a “big step backwards”, Dr Farsalinos said whether e-cigs were a pharmaceutical, tobacco or consumer product, was dealt with in Europe three years ago.

“E-cigs are not medicinal so that argument was thrown out.

“The EU (European Union) regulates it under the Tobacco Products Directive but there’s a separate category for e-cigs where it’s treated as a consumer product,” he said.

He added that e-cigs should be regulated as a consumer product but with restrictions like banning its sale to minors.

Calling for a ban on e-cigs, Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said instead of helping smokers to quit, e-cigs are causing them to spend more on a new habit.

CAP education officer N.V. Subbarow said many vapers were still smoking. “Worse, teachers and parents are at a loss because kids who have never smoked are vaping now.”

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