Ms Sheena Chan Kim Sua suggested that e-cigarettes be allowed in Singapore, as e-cigarettes would allow smokers to continue their habit but save non-smokers from breathing in second-hand smoke ("E-cigarettes may be the solution"; Forum Online, May 30).
Electronic nicotine delivery systems (Ends) aerosol is not merely "water vapour", contrary to claims in the marketing for these products.
Adverse health effects for third parties exposed to it cannot be ruled out, because the use of e-cigarettes leads to the emission of fine and ultra-fine inhalable liquid particles, nicotine, and cancer-causing substances.
Such particles can accumulate indoors, and the particle size is comparable to that for conventional cigarettes.
Additionally, foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure has potential long-term adverse consequences for their brain development.
The Ministry of Health has prohibited the import, distribution and sale of Ends, including e-cigarettes, under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, as there is clear evidence of the health risks that vapour from Ends poses to users and bystanders, the latest being the World Health Organisation's report on Ends published last year.
While Ends are often marketed as smoking-cessation products, there is very limited and inconclusive evidence that they work as a method for quitting tobacco smoking.
Ends which claim to be smoking-cessation products should demonstrate their safety and effectiveness with the same level of scientific rigour required for approved nicotine-replacement therapies under the Medicines Act.
Singapore adopts a multi-pronged approach in tobacco control through a combination of legislation and health promotion initiatives.
While Singapore's smoking prevalence has stabilised in recent years, the availability of Ends can undermine the progress Singapore has made in tobacco control and in improving Singaporeans' health generally.
Ends may enhance the attractiveness of smoking itself and perpetuate the habit.
Ends may also result in children and non-smokers being initiated into cigarette smoking, while smokers may use both Ends and cigarettes.
Smokers seeking to quit smoking can opt to enrol themselves in a smoking-cessation programme, use nicotine replacement therapy or go cold turkey.
Smokers who would like to be supported in their efforts to quit smoking can call QuitLine on 1800-438-2000, or join the I Quit club at www.iquitclub.sg
Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Ministry of Health
This article was first published on June 16, 2015.
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