Banning Vaping Fails Smokers

A new study has found that taking a strong anti-vaping approach as part of an approach to combat tobacco use ends up being a threat to public health in South-East Asia. The authors shy away from stating it clearly, but the authors do use their findings to call for “a nuanced approach to tobacco control”.

There are eleven countries in the World Health Organisation’s South-East Asia Region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Tobacco use has and continues to wreak havoc with those nations’ populations – contributing one quarter of the entire world’s 8 million annual tobacco-related deaths.

Two million dying from their smoking habit in 2019 alone from just eleven countries is a shocking state of affairs, resulting from the fact that the average smoking rate across the region is about double that of the United Kingdom.

The horrendous figures were cited in a new paper titled ‘Common assumptions in tobacco control that may not hold true for South-East Asia’, by Kamran Siddiqi, Monika Arora, and Prakash Guptac.

They note that ten of the eleven are signed up to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which legally binds them to implementing tobacco control as a priority.

“Progress is slow, and many tobacco control policies are not well-developed in most countries,” the authors write.

An example of this is Thailand: a country where it is legal to buy and use cannabis, smoke in bars and restaurants, but where carrying a single disposable electronic cigarette can be punished with a £2500 fine or time in prison.

Rather than reducing the tobacco-related death toll, recent visitors to the region have attested that the ban on vaping and vape products has only achieved to develop a thriving black market where products are uncontrolled and the actual contents unknown.

The authors note: “In the absence of a desire or resources to police smoking bans across this vast region, more evidence-based approaches are needed to empower communities and families to expect smoke-free environments in public as well as private spaces.”

“Those considering electronic cigarettes as tobacco products are borrowing policies from tobacco control which may not be appropriate,” they continue.

Six of the eleven have complete vape bans in place, but “e-cigarettes are still available through online platforms”. Well, that and from every single street seller walking around openly with trays of vapes and in all electronic gadget shops!

The authors findings agree with the observations of tourists, that the poor quality of legislation results from reliance on poor science and has not addressed smoking rates. They discovered that bans in the six countries have resulted in unregulated vaping and criminalised people simply looking to reduce their harm exposure and who are seeking to quit tobacco use – the very people the bans are claimed to be supporting.

Harm reduction expert Clive Bates commented: “These bans are stupid and doomed to fail.”

As the evidence of success continues to grow in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other nations that have embraced vaping, it will be interesting to see if South-East Asian nations change their approach over the next 12 months.