Tobacco logic up in flames

pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

FIRST off, I applaud the government’s efforts in taking certain measures against the sale of vaping and e-cigarette products targeting young children, especially with the recent announcement that they will be closely monitoring and restricting online sales of such products.

I am a light smoker and e-cigarette user myself, and I wholeheartedly agree that young children should not be exposed to such vices.

However, the vaping and e-cigarette community as a whole is increasingly worried that the blanket policies to restricting product usage among youths have intentionally or unintentionally affected responsible adult users as well.

As a disclaimer, I am not claiming that vaping or smoking e-cigarettes is healthy per se, and people should not be encouraged to use them.

But what I am saying is — there is a significant number of nicotine users who simply can’t afford to quit nicotine due to a variety of reasons, and have vaping and e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative.

Some are battling against addiction and are looking for a coping mechanism. Many of them opt for vaping and e-cigarettes just because it is overall healthier than smoking cigarettes in general. I believe that this is the demographic that has been neglected, and this demographic is the one that the government should pay more attention to.

So far, the government has shown no sign of supporting the cause of responsible nicotine usage and instead, hinted at the possibility of banning nicotine devices outright. The lack of clarity and clear directions is what worries me along with some other device users.

Many of them have already gone back to lighting cigarettes and choose not to be involved in the conversation at all.

So, how can the government settle this issue then? As far as I can tell, there are three possible stances that the government can take:

1. All nicotine products are bad;

2. All vape and e-cigarette products are bad;

3. All vape and e-cigarette products are bad, because children are using them.

If the government takes a hardline stance against all nicotine products, but bans only vape products and not cigarettes, it is self-contradictory by nature. In the words of Ian Carter, “It is either all of it is okay, or none of it is.”

But I believe that the government is leaning much more towards the second and third stances. In that sense, wouldn’t the best approach be to further regulate the industry than an outright, blanket ban instead?

An outright ban will only hurt veteran smokers who wish to transition to a healthier lifestyle, the ones who wish to break away from the horrors of addiction, those who don’t have the resources, nor tools to quit — cold turkey outright.

Jumping on the hype train along with 40 other countries which ban e-cigarettes and vaping products is ludicrous because it serves nothing more than to boost the illegal trade and empower criminal groups.

You do not need to look far to see a real-life case study. During President Richard Nixon’s era, the war on drugs has not only failed in its promises to reduce crime, but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society.

The illegal drug trade has generated enormous profits for the groups that produce and sell them, and the income that is invested in buying weapons, hiring gangs to defend their trade, paying off public officials and making drugs even more readily available to children to get them addicted — worsening the problem it sets out to prevent.

Of course, this is just an exaggerated scenario. E-cigarettes and vape products have nothing in common with the war on drugs… is it? Have we started to paint the picture that these devices are more of a drug than standard cigarettes are?

What is the solution then? The same solution that the US has employed which worked wonders.

Hospitals in the US issued out free drugs (not the medication kind) in small doses in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms and slowly introduce these drug addicts back to society, to become functioning members of society through special treatment programmes.

If only there is a potential tobacco equivalent of a tool that can help facilitate well-regulated, well-controlled drug distribution to prevent irresponsible and overuse of drugs.

That is what vapes and e-cigarettes could have been.

Certain manufacturers have introduced a system that produces foul-tasting chemicals after multiple uses to prevent nicotine overdoses.

They also have tightly regulated pods to prevent juice tampering.

Instead of having gruesome photos of cancer patients and stillborn babies on the nicotine product packaging (which does not prove effective), why not have a customer helpline or a tagline that states “Are you suffering from nicotine addiction? Call this number for help.”

It can be very difficult for the government to even show a slight hint of support for the tobacco industry, even if it meant loosening up regulations.

But there are plenty of smokers who respect people’s choices not to blow smoke in their faces; smokers who respect and honour the three-metre rule; smokers who have the right to choose to smoke in private without bothering others to get through a long day at work.

To me, vape and e-cigarette products are not the eleventh plagues that come and terrorise the nation.

To me, it is a public health dream that gives people a chance to practise responsible smoking via healthier alternatives.

Jahaziah Lim
Petaling Jaya


The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.