Regulation may help curb rise in vaping cases in Singapore, but more information is needed, say experts

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SINGAPORE: Regulating the use of e-vaporisers, or vapes, in Singapore may help curb the rising number of cases, but more information is needed first, experts said.

While regulation is possible, many questions remain unanswered, said smoking cessation specialist Sean Ang.

Among these is the role that these devices play, he told CNA’s Heart of The Matter podcast.

“Are they a replacement for cigarettes in only existing smokers? Or do you want them to take over cigarettes as the dominant form of nicotine consumption? Or are they to be treated purely as a medical aid to help a person quit smoking?” he asked.

The most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to regulating vapes is finding out more about users in the local population, said Associate Professor Bibhas Chakraborty from Duke-NUS Medical School, who also joined the podcast.

“We have certain research findings from other populations. But what works here may not be exactly same as what might have worked in other countries,”

“This research needs investment. And this research will help us personalise the efforts … We need to survey them, we need to provide certain kinds of support, we need to experiment on them, provide alternatives to them. And then only we know definitely what might work for this country.”

The import and sale of e-cigarettes have always been banned, but in 2017, the law was extended to cover the purchase, use and possession of such devices. Six years on, the problem of vaping has worsened.

Last year, 4,697 people were caught using and possessing vapes, up from 1,266 people in 2020. About one in three people caught last year were under the age of 18.

“If we look at regulation, to lift the ban totally, as a knee-jerk reaction, I think that's wrong,” Mr Ang said.

“Because once you open the floodgates, you can't really close it.”

NOT A “FREE-FOR-ALL” PRODUCT

In whichever way vapes are regulated, it should “never be a free-for-all product” that can be bought at convenience stores, Mr Ang said.

“I have to be convinced, scientifically, that it's a less harmful product. It has to be part of a certain measure, or a certain protocol that helps people reduce their t...

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