TL;DR – Why so needlessly dogmatic?
In Singapore, if you are caught with e-cigarettes, you can be fined up to $10,000.
The ban on e-cigarettes started in December 2015. It was put in place even though a report released by Public Health England (PHE) that said e-cigarettes are not only 95 per cent less harmful than regular cigarettes, but also have the potential to help smokers quit. The report was released just before the ban in Singapore kicked in.
In case you think that the PHE got things wrong, a team of researchers in USA recently published a study which estimated that up to 6.6 million early deaths in America might be averted over 10 years if smokers switched to e-cigarettes. The study used worst and best case scenarios and modeled possible public health outcomes in the United States if cigarette smoking was replaced by e-cigarettes.
Maybe the 6.6 million figure is due to the researchers being optimistic. What about the worst case scenario? Even in the most pessimistic scenario, the study found that 1.6 million former cigarette smokers could avoid premature death.
But the benefits don’t just stop there. David Levy, who co-led the work at Georgetown University Medical Center in the United States said:
“In addition (to lives saved), there would be tremendous health benefits including reduced disease disability to smokers, reduced pain and suffering, and reduced exposure to second hand smoke”
So the scientific evidence is weighing in favour of e-cigarettes. So why is our government so stubborn in maintaining the ban?
According to MOH, the ban “takes a high precautionary level of protection for the public’s health”. In other words, kiasi.
MOH further elaborated:
“Additionally, we remain concerned that e-cigarettes could attract and harm a large number of new users (who may not necessarily be current smokers), get them addicted to nicotine, and hence potentially serve as a gateway to developing a smoking habit, particularly among our young”
But hello, there is no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway to smoking for children and non-smokers. In fact, the study by the PHE suggests the opposite – e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people.
We aren’t saying that MOH shouldn’t regulate e-cigarettes. By all means regulate them as closely as cigarettes are regulated now. Then make it even harder for people to get the actual cigarettes, which are more harmful, so that people will switch to the less harmful alternative of e-cigarettes.
And if MOH is concerned about losing tax money, they can tax e-cigarettes as heavily as they tax cigarettes now. And then tax cigarettes even more.
But if MOH still insists on banning e-cigarettes, they should do some rigorous scientific study that provides strong evidence that e-cigarettes are at least as bad, if not worse, than cigarettes. Otherwise, their ban just shows them to be driven by dogma, not science. Surely MOH can do better than this. Right?