Take holistic approach to stub out smoking

I refer to the letter by Singapore Cancer Society's (SCS) chief executive Albert Ching (Smoking is biggest risk factor for lung cancer; Forum Online, Feb 15).

While Mr Ching applauds the total ban on e-cigarettes, he goes on to assert that the cancer society hopes that smokers will not return to regular smoking. He also states that the best safeguard is to "either never smoke or be exposed to cigarette smoke". This is an idealistic notion.

"Heat-not-burn" products eliminate the carcinogens found in combustible cigarettes. Notably, although it is nicotine that makes cigarettes addictive, it is in fact tobacco smoke and not nicotine per se that releases toxins which have deleterious effects on the human body.

While it is known that vaping has proven to be an effective quitting aid, smokers who had used vaping as a form of nicotine replacement could well relapse back to using combustible cigarettes due to the total ban on e-cigarettes.

Though not the panacea to completely eradicate smoking, the use of e-cigarettes has been adopted in cessation clinics in Britain and elsewhere.

Thus, the cancer society's message of applauding the ban on e-cigarettes is rather contradictory.

Perhaps, SCS could conduct its own studies on the impact of switching from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes and the implications for developing cancer, which would then enable it to form an evidence-based opinion on the use of e-cigarettes.

Mr Ching also conveys an essential point when he emphasises the importance of getting people to quit. However, we must take a more holistic approach towards this issue.

Cessation clinics should be easily accessible, affordable and available for smokers to register themselves to quit.

Apart from that, this outreach should encompass the families of smokers as well. Emotional triggers arising from family situations could lead to a relapse for former smokers akin to former drug addicts battling the disease of addiction.

And of course, we should not overlook the efficacy of alternative nicotine-release products such as the much embattled e-cigarettes.

Rather than an outright ban, regulating the use of e-cigarettes in cessation clinics could well prove beneficial.

Mohammed Saleem Mohammed Ibrahim