Take cue from BMA about-face on e-cigs, lung specialists urged

The Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) should consider following the lead of the British Medical Association (BMA), which recently reversed its negative position on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or “vapes”) and now supports their availability as a means to reduce harm caused by smoking cigarettes.

“We call on the PCCP to carefully look at the reasons behind the BMA’s about-face on e-cigarettes. As the premier specialty organization of Filipino pulmonologists and acknowledged authority in pulmonary medicine in the Philippines, the PCCP can be a huge influence in the adoption of tobacco harm-reduction measures in the country that could potentially save millions of Filipino lives,”  said Tom Pinlac, president of the consumer-advocacy group, The Vapers Philippines.

According to Pinlac, local tobacco harm-reduction advocates, including The Vapers Philippines, have been urging the Department of Health to emulate the British government’s anti-tobacco policy, which supports consumers in stopping smoking and promotes the use of less-harmful nicotine products, particularly e-cigarettes. Last year about 2 million people in England used e-cigarettes and completely stopped smoking, while nearly half a million more were using e-cigarettes as an aid to stop smoking.

In its position paper, “E-cigarettes: Balancing Risks and Opportunities,” which was released on November 29, 2017, the BMA stated, “Increasing numbers of smokers are using e-cigarettes, with many people finding them helpful in cutting down or quitting cigarette use. There are clear potential benefits to e-cigarettes in reducing the harms associated with smoking, and consensus that e-cigarette use is likely to be significantly safer than smoking. It remains important, however, that in realizing any benefit to health, any potential risks associated with e-cigarette use are minimized.”

Written specifically for policy-makers, the BMA paper aims to highlight the association members’ concerns  and potential opportunities surrounding the use of e-cigarettes. It sets out what the BMA believes is an appropriate policy response, taking into account the evolving regulatory and policy environment for these devices in the United Kingdom. The BMA is the professional association of doctors in the UK.

The BMA paper has three key messages for policy-makers on tobacco- harm reduction. First, there is a growing consensus that e-cigarette use is significantly less harmful than smoking.

Second, e-cigarettes are the most popular device used in attempts to stop smoking. Although there is a lack of high-quality research proving “effectiveness” as required for drugs, most reported studies demonstrate a positive relationship between e-cigarette use and cessation.

Third, consumer regulations and feasible standards currently in force in the UK should be kept under review, but are sufficient to address concerns about e-cigarette use, something that would not have been possible if e-cigarettes were regulated as medicines, the BMA noted.



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Turning Points 2018