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E-cigarettes just as dangerous

KUALA LUMPUR: Anti-tobacco advocates have called on the Health Ministry to ban e-cigarettes (e-cig) and e-liquids to prevent nicotine addiction among the younger generation.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s senior consultant of public health medicine Professor Dr Lekhraj Rampal said the increase in e-cig users among adolescents and youth in Malaysia was a critical issue.

“A study overseas revealed that among adolescents, non-smokers who used e-cig showed more willingness to smoke cigarettes compared with those who had never used any tobacco product,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said a Dutch research showed that as well as nicotine, the potentially harmful substances in e-cigs included propylene glycol, glycerol, aldehydes, nitrosamines and metals, which when inhaled, could lead to irritation and damage to the respiratory tract, heart palpitations and increased risk of cancer.

He said propylene glycol was used to produce smoke, or vape, and the process of heating the substance at a voltage of more than five volts would produce formaldehyde, which was carcinogenic or cancer causing.

“Most vaporisers will use 10 to 12 volts to get more vape or smoke. The Dutch study showed that in some cases, the quantity of nicotine in the vapour was not in line with the breakdown on the packaging. In others, the concentrations of some substances were higher in the vapour than in the fluid.

“This substance will give the same or worse effect to people surrounding them. In addition, there are not many studies to prove that other volatile substances are not produced during vaping.”

Dr Lekhraj urged Malaysians not to jump to the conclusion that vaping was safer than smoking cigarettes, and wait for a directive from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

University Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences addiction medicine specialist Associate Professor Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin said e-cigs were not approved as quit-smoking aids in most countries.

“Without regulation at present, users are using these devices at their own risk. There is no control on quality of devices or more importantly the e-liquid used. Also, nicotine is a Group C Poison under the Poison Act 1952,” he said.

Malaysian Green Lung Association co-founder and president Ho Rhu Yann said if nicotine patches or gum were listed as Group C Poison, e-cigs should also be the same.

A Bernama report said a study on e-cigarette addiction conducted by the Institute of Respiratory Medicine (IPR) since 2013 was expected to be completed next year.

According to IPR’s senior medical consultant Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Abdul Muttalif, the research, currently in the preliminary epidemiology stage, required more time to study.

“The e-cig issue is controversial, and there are pros and cons. We have to wait for the outcome and will also obtain information from WHO, which may take a long time, the latest by next year.”

Razak said e-cig smokers might experience acute effects, such as coughing and tiredness.

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