Appropriate regulation of electronic cigarettes or “vapes” can help prevent serious sickness and the premature death of millions of cigarette smokers in the Philippines, according to a leading expert on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes.
Dr. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos, research fellow at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center and University of Patras in Greece, urged the government to create a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes that is reasonable, proportionate and realistic. “It must be different from regulation of tobacco cigarettes; otherwise, people may be deceived into thinking that e-cigarettes are the same as tobacco cigarettes.”
According to Dr. Farsalinos, effective tobacco harm reduction approaches must be made available to Filipino smokers.
“The average lifespan of a smoker is 10 years shorter than a nonsmoker. According to the World Health Organization, there are around 20 million Filipino smokers, half of whom will die prematurely due to smoking-related diseases,” he said.
According to Dr. Farsalinos, nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction to smoking.
Nicotine is the reason why quitting smoking is very difficult, he said. At least 8 out of 10 smokers fail to quit with currently approved smoking cessation methods, which include nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs and oral medications).
While smoking is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, among others, these diseases are not caused by nicotine. Dr. Farsalinos quoted Professor Michael Russell, a pioneer in the study of tobacco dependence, who in 1976 said, “People smoke for nicotine but die from the tar.”
Tar is produced by the burning of the dried tobacco leaf, Dr. Farsalinos explained. The burning produces many toxins that are subsequently inhaled by the smoker.
Dr. Farsalinos said e-cigarettes provided a safer alternative to reduce the harmful effects of smoking by providing nicotine to people who cannot or do not want to quit by themselves.
He said there were many studies showing that e-cigarettes by far carried a lower risk than tobacco cigarettes and were at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking.