Is 'controlled vaping' the answer?

There have been several letters discussing the pros and cons of vaping, the latest being that of Dr Yik Keng Yeong (Don't make a case for vaping; Feb 21).

Dr Yik acknowledges that "it is probably true that the ills of vaping are lesser than those of smoking cigarettes", but argues that e-cigarettes should be banned as the inhaled contents would still cause some harm to their users.

I agree with both these points and think that there is a case to be made for controlled vaping in our society.

Sadly, we already have in our midst entrenched smokers for whom education or enforcement will continue to be ineffective.

If some of these smokers who cannot quit can switch to e-cigarettes, at least three groups of non-smokers will be better protected.

These are the family members of smokers, close neighbours of smokers, and passengers in taxis and private-hire cars where the drivers light up between drop-off and pick-up.

Could e-cigarettes be allowed in a limited and controlled way?

For example, we could make them available only in pharmacies, just as we currently do with nicotine gum.

That way, addicted smokers who cannot quit can have a way of attending to their dependence without annoying or, worse, harming others who cannot walk away.

This may be an unpopular point to make but there does not seem to be any other practical solution to this difficult health issue at present.

Lee Pheng Soon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Is 'controlled vaping' the answer?'. Print Edition | Subscribe