How Safe Is Safe?

In an interesting twist to the ongoing debate on ‘heat not burn’ products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently allowed the sale of a heated tobacco product called IQOS in U.S. markets after conducting a review for around 2 years. In its review, the FDA found that smokers who switch to IQOS will have “reduced toxic exposures and this is likely to lead to less risk of tobacco-related diseases”. 

Furthermore, the FDA found IQOS suitable for the protection of public health due to the fact that it produces lower levels of toxins.

In a recent e-cigarette prevention campaign, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr Amrin Amin reiterated to the public that Singapore’s comprehensive ban on alternative tobacco products “is intended to protect the public from its harms.”

It is now time to revisit the blanket ban as emerging scientific studies in Europe and the latest review by the FDA prove that products like IQOS indeed expose the smoker to lesser toxins and are safer options than combustible cigarettes.

While we have taken a stand to review the use of such products only if they are found to be safe, the premise itself is ambiguous and utopian as even in the medical industry no products are guaranteed to be 100 percent safe.

For example, statins lower  your cholesterol but use of statins carry the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, muscle cell damage, liver damage and even cognitive problems in some individuals.

Chemotherapy on the other hand kills both cancerous cells as well as damage some healthy cells which cause unpleasant side effects and health risks.

We have not banned such treatments and drugs just because of their inherent risks. In the same vein, we should review this blanket ban on alternative tobacco products and provide the smoker the option of choosing a safer, less harmful alternative.

This is especially pertinent in a land where the smoking rate has plateaued around 12-14% for the last 5 years despite the slew of measures and campaigns to reduce it.

Let’s blow away the smoke surrounding this issue and adopt an enlightened approach in tackling the scourge of smoking in Singapore.

Mohammed Saleem s/o Mohammed Ibrahim

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