Spotlight on new-gen tobacco items

Allowing new tobacco products will likely result in a rise in the number of addicts in addition to the same health and economic concerns related to traditional cigarettes, according to experts at a meeting chaired by health minister Dao Hong Lan.

Deputy head of the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Legal Affairs Department Dinh Thi Thu Thuy said that authorities have taken multiple measures to curb the use of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and their variants through awareness campaigns on their harms, while also handling smuggling cases on these new tobacco products.

However, these products are quickly gaining popularity, especially among young people.

According to reports presented at the meeting, new tobacco products often contain flavourings and chemicals, and users can increase the nicotine percentage or addictive substances in this mixture, including heroin.

In particular, Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi admitted nearly 130 cases of poisoning due to the use of e-cigarettes between 2022 and 2023.

The Institute of Criminal Science under the Ministry of Public Security has found narcotics in e-liquid in several of these cases, said the director of the hospital’s Poison Control Centre Dr Nguyen Trung Nguyen.

Meanwhile, data from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids show that at least 39 countries and territories have imposed bans on e-cigarettes, said Thuy.

Management over this type of product is conducted in alignment with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 88 countries (including 27 in the European Union).

Nearly 20 countries have prohibited the use of heated tobacco products, including five from Asean which are Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei.

The health ministry’s legal affairs department head added that management measures regarding these new tobacco products also depend on the local socio-economic context and resources.

Health experts at the meeting also highlighted that there has been no successful example in the world in entirely curbing the use of new tobacco and nicotine products among youth.

Considering case studies from the US, Canada, Georgia and Poland, they said that the switch from prohibition or without regulation to legalisation caused a spike in e-cigarette usage, especially among young people.

In accordance with WHO’s recommendations and Vietnam’s current management capacity, experts propose that the MOH impose a ban on the production, trade, import and advertising of new tobacco products.

According to the WHO, there is no proof that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, as they are highly addictive and negatively affect a person’s health, particularly brain development in children and adolescents.

There is also a lack of evidence to prove that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit traditional tobacco products, the organisation added.

The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) said that most smokers who use e-cigarettes as a cessation aid fail to quit smoking, and continue to use both types of tobacco products.

Meanwhile, around 70% of tobacco consumers in Japan and 96.2% in South Korea used both heated tobacco products and traditional cigarettes.

Speaking at the meeting, the Health Minister gave high regard to the ministry’s legal affairs department, the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund and other relevant agencies in contributing to preventing the harm of tobacco consumption.

Based on the opinions presented at this meeting, a proposal on state management of new tobacco products will soon be introduced for the people’s healthcare, she said. — Vietnam News/ANN

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