Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos is one of the world’s leading cardiologists. He has been in Kuala Lumpur, where he was presenting the findings of a new and uniquely widespread survey of vapers, involving more than 7,000 participants in Malaysia.
Detailing some of the most important findings he said: “When looking at those who use e-cigarettes and also smoke, we see a reduction in median consumption of cigarettes. A very substantial reduction: from 19 to just 4 cigarettes per day among current smokers.” That is a serious achievement, he believes, although “the ideal is for smokers to quit, not just reduce their smokng consumption.”
The data also show that “e-cigarettes are NOT being used to introduce people to nicotine.”
The study, says Dr Farsalions, is an excellent basis on which authorities can build policy. “It is a very good beginning because of the sample size. Here is an opportunity for Malaysia to be a leader for the region, using real data on which to base regulations.”
Conversely, draconian regulation could be disastrous. “If you regulate [e-cigarettes] like a medicine, it would be a big step backwards – to the situation I saw in the EU some five years ago. It is totally inappropriate.”
Nicotine simply is not a medicine and e-cigarettes are not a medical delvery system, by all conventional definitions including those of the WHO. Pharmaceutical products are intended to alleviate a specific condition, with specific dosage, and have no subjective benefits – ie, medicines are not to be taken for enjoyment, as e-cigarettes are.
Dr Farsalinos explained that was completely illogical to regard or regulate the harm reduction of smoking uniquely. He likened it to programs of needle exchange for drug users – now adopted in Malaysia as in many other countries – as harm reduction in action, a more realistic approach than merely saying ‘don’t use drugs’. Similarly, “governments regulate for crash helmets for motorcycle riders, not for an end to motorcycle riding.” Seat belts are advocated for car drivers, not ‘no driving’. Condoms are promoted for sexual intercourse, when ‘no sex’ would be more effective. “So why say ‘no vaping’ when it is a parallel harm reduction tool?”
Summing up, Dr Farsalinos pointed to a global survey of vapers carried ou some three years ago, in which he was involved. That survey had minimal response from Asian countries, which is one reasn for his decisin to undertake the latest study, but the golbal trends were clear. “Now, with this study, we see that the Malaysian vaper is really no different from his or her counterpart in Europe or the US. Vapers everywhere in the world” want to be able to use appropriately regulated and freely available (to adults) e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking.