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Thai consumer group refutes study linking e-cigarettes to addiction

THAILAND: A consumer group in Thailand has disputed the findings of a study which claimed that nearly two-thirds of e-cigarette users have become addicted to the product.

Mr. Maris Karanyawat, representative of e-cigarette user network End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST) and the Facebook page “What is e-cigarette”, said the findings of the study conducted by 38 researchers contradicted what was happening in many countries where e-cigarettes have actually helped smokers quit.

The research, which compared the smoking cessation technique of medication to e-cigarette use, concluded that two-thirds of those who switched to e-cigarette became addicted to the product.

“This research contradicts the reality in many countries and number of studies which support e-cigarette as an alternative to quitting smoking,” Mr. Maris said in a statement.

He said legislators in countries like the Philippines and New Zealand had started to consider e-cigarettes and other smoke-free products as less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

Maris said that in the Philippines, a joint committee of the House of Representatives recently passed a bill to regulate e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products to help reduce harm for smokers.

He said New Zealand also passed a law supporting smoke-free products which are believed to be less harmful than conventional combustible cigarettes and as such are considered safer alternatives for those who would otherwise continue to smoke.

Mr. Maris said the European Union and the United States also allow their citizens to have access to less harmful alternatives which can help them finally quit smoking.

He said that e-cigarettes have actually proven effective in making smokers quit.  This, he said, will help a lot of smokers in Thailand who struggle to quit smoking.

“The results of a survey by the National Statistical Office in 2017 clearly indicate that 43% of smokers do not want to quit smoking.  While only 20% said they have tried to quit smoking, and within the group who tried to quit smoking, they have attempted it for more than 1 to 2 times because these people had no other choice,” Maris said.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that e-cigarettes are less harmful compared to smoking cigarettes, he said.

“Why don’t we give these smokers a chance to switch to e-cigarettes for less exposure to harmful substances? Or shall we let these people who cannot yet quit smoking, continue to smoke cigarettes?” Mr. Maris asked.

He said several research and studies such as the one conducted by the Cancer Research UK concluded that e-cigarette can help people quit smoking successfully by up to 60 percent.

However, Mr. Asa Saligupta, another representative ECST, said the results of this study have never been published because anti-smoking organizations are not open to results that offer a different perspective.

“They do not understand the behavior of smokers at all, despite the fact that smokers should be informed of the advantages, disadvantages, and guidelines for quitting smoking. So that one day, they can decide for themselves which method to pursue to quit smoking,” Mr. Saligupta said.

A clinical study (Clinical Priority Partnership) between the Cancer Research UK and the Royal Colleges of Physicians suggests that based on the evidence to date, vaping is a lot less harmful alternative to smoking tobacco and that e-cigarettes are more effective for smoking cessation compared to both over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy and quitting unaided.

Mr. Maris said that no less than the Office of the Ombudsman recommended that the opinions of smokers and e-cigarette users be considered and that positive and negative information be treated fairly in deciding whether the ban on e-cigarettes should be sustained or lifted.

“One-sided biased news and creating fear is not a good policy because it will only confuse consumers and will cause them to not be able to get accurate information,” Mr. Maris said.

He said ECST would present all information to the Office of the Ombudsman as an acknowledgment to ensure impartiality in reviewing the ban on e-cigarettes.

About ECST

Ends Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST)  is a consumer advocacy organization that strives to promote tobacco harm reduction in the face of blanket bans, fines and jail time for consumers who wish to use alternative nicotine consumption products, specifically Electronic Liquid Vaporizers.

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