Health Ministry preaches caution on so-called alternative
PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry (MOH) doesn’t buy claims by retailers or manufacturers of the electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, being safer than a normal one.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abd. Rashid Shirlin, said: “The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its technical report regarding Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) concluded the safety and extent of nicotine uptakes from this product have not been established.
“There is concern this nicotine delivery to the human lung might result in stronger toxicological, physiological and addictive effects, and this must be addressed in scientific studies.
“ENDS are not nicotine replacement therapy to assist smokers quit tobacco. Instead, ENDS might be used to perpetuate smoking by sustaining nicotine dependence in environments where smoking is prohibited.”
The e-cigarette is being touted by the product manufacturers and importers to be the healthier and safer way for smokers to get their nicotine fix than a regular cigarette.
While a regular cigarette contains over 4,000 types of harmful chemicals such as tobacco, tar and nicotine, they claim an e-cigarette only contains the latter.
Rosnah added that nicotine is listed as a Group C Poison within the Poisons Act 1952 (Act 366), where it can only be sold or supplied by an authorised licensed individual under the provisions of Section 22.
“All products containing poisons listed in Group C must first be registered with the MOH Drug Control Authority before it can be marketed. None of the e-cigarette nicotine products in the market has been registered.
“The public are strongly advised not to purchase any e-cigarette, which is very costly. The product on sale now is not legal and more importantly, there is a major lack of certainty with regards to its safety and effectiveness.”
Rosnah added that the MOH Pharmaceutical Services are planning legal action to curb sales of e-cigarettes.
Less harmful nicotine fix, say traders
PETALING JAYA: An e-cigarette retailer insists the product is known to help smokers who have the intention to quit smoking.
E-Cig Trading director Allen Foo said: “It works just like a nicotine patch and nicotine gum which is to give user the nicotine fix.
“But, there’s more to smoking than just getting the nicotine fix. There is a certain fixation about smoking: The way you hold the cigarette, the puffing and seeing the smoke coming out of your mouth.
“The e-cigarette offers the same smoking experience: You hold it like a cigarette, you puff it like you do a cigarette, and you’ll see ‘smoke’ coming out of your mouth like a cigarette. Except that it’s not a smoke, it’s vapour.”
Foo said some of his customers have managed to quit smoking two months after switching to e-cigarette.
“Once they get used to the e-cigarette, they get uncomfortable with the smell of regular cigarette fumes. So, they will stop smoking the regular cigarette for good. Following that, they switched to the low-nicotine cartridge and eventually they will stop needing the nicotine fix.”
Foo explained the time taken to quit smoking varies from one customer to another.
“Smokers know smoking is bad for health. But, it’s not the nicotine which makes smoking harmful. Nicotine is like caffeine to a coffee drinker: It’s addictive. The e-cigarette is an alternative for those who need the nicotine fix with minimal damage to their body and those around them.”
The battery-powered, non-flammable device claims to provide a smoking experience without the danger of fire, flame, tar, carbon monoxide and other harmful substances found in a regular cigarette.
Instead of smoke, the device releases vapour, which contains vaporised nicotine and is delivered straight to the blood stream via the lungs, giving the smoker an instant fix.
It is also claimed the odourless vapour allows the smoker to smoke in a closed-environment without causing discomfort to others in the same room.
One e-cigarette user, Philip Oon, said he switched to the e-cigarette because his wife doesn’t allow him to smoke inside the house and would scold him if he does.
“It took me awhile to get used to it and I would smoke up to two cartridges a day. Now, I’ve managed to reduce it to one cartridge a day. One cartridge would cost me RM3 and it saves me RM7 everyday as I often used to smoke a 20-cigarette pack a day.”
Each cartridge is equivalent to 15 to 40 cigarette sticks or 100-150 puffs, depending on the brand and make.
The e-cigarette starter pack cost ranges between RM40 and RM350, depending on the brand and model.
A nicotine-free flavoured cartridge is also available for sisha smokers.
How does the product work?
While a regular cigarette contains over 4,000 harmful chemicals — including 43 cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds, an e-cigarette claims to contain only water, nicotine, propylene glycol, and flavouring that emulates the cigarette flavour.
The e-cigarette is made up of three components — the battery, an atomiser (or vapouriser) and the cartridge.
The product works when a smoker inhales at the end of the cartridge whichs hold the nicotine. The atomiser then heats up the nicotine into vapour form. The smoker then inhales the odorless nicotine vapour like they would inhale smoke from a regular cigarette.
An orange LED will light on the other end of the cigarette to imitate the actual smoking experience.
Association of Standards Users: A fag is a fag
PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Association of Standards Users chief executive officer N. Ratna Devi feels Malaysia shouldn’t allow e-cigarettes to be made available here, since The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not endorse the product as a replacement therapy for nicotine or smoking.
Stating Malaysia should apply a similar principle, she said: “This is to ensure the safety of potential users.
“WHO has stated no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing the e-cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy. The purchase of e-cigarette should be strictly governed.
“Since the component being consumed is nicotine, the Drug Control Authority should play a leading role,” said Ratna, adding that cigarettes of any kind is harmful to health.
Electronic cigarettes are banned in:
● New Zealand
● United Kingdom