Allow e-cigarettes for smokers genuine about quitting

Singapore has been at the forefront of tobacco control measures, but the proportion of smokers aged between 18 and 69 has stagnated at 13.3 per cent since 2013.

Half a decade is long enough for us to recognise that our measures need tweaking.

I agree with the Ministry of Health that there is no conclusive evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes (No doubt about harmful effects of e-cigarettes; Feb 27).

However, I urge the Government to consider the published studies of respectable institutions which have stated that e-cigarettes are much safer than combustible cigarettes.

The BBC reported on Sept 21 last year that Scotland's national health education and promotion agency published a consensus statement saying that e-cigarettes are definitely less harmful than smoking tobacco.

The consensus statement was agreed upon by the Scottish government, health boards, academia and charities such as the British Lung Foundation and Cancer Research UK, reported BBC.

Other research for Public Health England also concluded that e-cigarettes were 95 per cent less harmful than normal cigarettes.

I agree with the Ministry of Health that e-cigarettes are a potential gateway for young people to get addicted to nicotine.

However, the lives of more than half a million smokers in Singapore matter too.

While we still do lack conclusive evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes, most drugs used for medical purposes do not come with conclusive evidence of their safe use.

Chemotherapy, for example, saves some lives but also worsens the condition of some patients who are too weak to fight its debilitating side effects.

It may take years to arrive at conclusive evidence, and by then, countless lives could be lost through smoking.

Let us regulate the use of e-cigarettes for smokers who are genuine about quitting.

We have successfully formulated various control measures and I am sure that we can also regulate the use of e-cigarettes in a safe environment.

Smokers should be given the chance to make a rational choice to use e-cigarettes as an interim tool to quit smoking, with the knowledge that it exposes them to less harmful chemicals.

Mohammed Saleem Mohammed Ibrahim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'Allow e-cigarettes for smokers genuine about quitting'. Print Edition | Subscribe