tobacco Harm reduction, a tobacco control strategy that encourages non-smokers to switch to reduced alternatives, is gaining momentum around the world.
According to a professor at Imperial College London, 98 million consumers worldwide have already switched to less damaging alternatives such as Vape and Snus.
In England, health officials support smokers switching to vaping to quit smoking and the vape is now the most popular quit aid. According to a June 2021 report by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in the UK, almost two thirds of current vapers in Great Britain are former smokers (64.6%), and this proportion continues to rise.
At the recent Virtual US E-Cigarette Summit, Professor Ann McNeill, specializing in tobacco addiction at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, shared the UK’s success in their tobacco control efforts.
In his presentation, he highlighted that the UK topped the chart of the Tobacco Control Scale 2019, a report that describes tobacco control activities in 36 European countries. He further added that England has a very balanced approach to vaping, keeping both a compassionate and fair stance.
The compassionate approach focuses on smokers, and the unbiased approach requires a more evidence-based approach.
At the same virtual US e-cigarette summit, Professor Scott Leisho, professor of population health and director of clinical and translational science at Arizona State University in the United States, said it is also important to ensure that tobacco control measures create unwanted stigma against Don’t be a smoker during your quitting journey.
He said: “In tobacco control, stigma has been actively used in a variety of different tobacco control campaigns. When there is stigma in tobacco control campaigns, it has intended consequences such as a reduction in the social desirability of smoking and smoking. Increase in the incidence of closure.
However, Professor Scott underlined that stigma in tobacco control strategies has many unintended consequences.
This includes stigma against tobacco-borne diseases, and expanded stigma against e-cigarette use by tobacco control practitioners who made unsubstantiated claims of e-cigarettes being comparatively harmful to combustible cigarettes, and rational decision-makers. Against the stigma of using low-harm products instead of flammable cigarettes.
These unintended consequences can be harmful because “multiple international studies have shown that those experiencing stigma have lower adherence to health care, treatment and support.”
According to Professor Scott, there is evidence on ways to reduce stigma.
“One of the most important is to use person-first language. For example, to say ‘a person using tobacco’ instead of ‘a person addicted to tobacco.’ Other approaches include emphasizing solutions and coping with tobacco dependence. It involves using sympathetic narratives to humanize people who have lived.
“All of these approaches conclude the need for stigma-reduction campaigns embedded in comprehensive tobacco control strategies. Action is now needed to address the stigma among tobacco and alternative product users.”
These insights are particularly useful for countries such as Malaysia where awareness of tobacco harm reduction strategies is at an early stage.
In a survey conducted by the Malaysian Vape Industry Advocacy (MVIA), it was revealed that 88% of Malaysian vapers who smoke cigarettes have successfully quit smoking with the help of vape.
The same survey also found that 79% of those who currently vape and also smoke traditional cigarettes at the same time have reduced smoking since vaping.
Clearly, for the smoking community in Malaysia, alternative products such as WAP, which are part of tobacco control strategies in some countries, have helped smokers quit on their journey. Further research, education and training should be considered in Malaysia to develop effective tobacco control strategies and assist smokers in the journey to quit smoking.