The Ministry of Health (MOH) recently announced a blanket ban on all emerging tobacco products which will progressively take effect from Dec 15 onwards, effectively making sure that electronic cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products will never tempt the young ‘uns into the habit here.
British tobacco policy experts however think that it’s the wrong move. In fact, they’ve suggested that MOH’s decision is unscientific, unethical and harmful to health, reports The Establishment Post.
An open letter by two veterans of the tobacco policy calls on Singapore’s Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong to put the bans on hold and rethink their policies, arguing that the ban actually protects the cigarette trade at the expense of health of smokers.
Professor Gerry Stimson of Imperial College London maintains that people will still use nicotine no matter the measures, but it is still possible to eliminate cancer respiratory and cardiovascular risks if they utilise products that do not create toxic smoke and tar — such as e-cigarettes and other products under the MOH ban.
Longstanding tobacco control campaigner Clive Bates on the other hand insisted that emerging tobacco products have the very potential to make cigarettes and smoking obsolete by 2040 — and that there’s no case to ban them now.
“Singapore has always been a leader in tobacco control but we think it’s taking a wrong turn by banning these products. A far better strategy is to use carefully designed regulation to encourage them to gradually destroy the cigarette trade and save thousands of lives,” Bates continues. “Prohibition of low risk alternative products doesn’t mean users quit, it means they carry on smoking,”
The official stance by the MOH and the Health Sciences Authority is that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping smokers kick the habit.
“E-cigarettes could potentially be a gateway to developing a smoking habit, particularly among the young,” they noted.
Surprisingly, even one of the world’s largest tobacco manufacturers Philip Morris International (PMI) are against Singapore’s blanket ban on emerging tobacco products. They’ve already poured in billions of dollars in scientific research and development of potentially reduced-risk products, such as their Heat-Not-Burn cigarettes.
No matter what, it’s not expected for the Singapore government to change their mind, considering their progressively hardline stance against smokers and smoking in general. Over the past few years, the smoking ban has been extended to include most indoor public areas such as void decks, covered walkways and bus stops, as well as smoke-free zone trials in the Nee Soon South constituency.
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