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E-cigarettes not a proven way to quit smoking, global and local authorities agree

Citing a World Health Organisation study, Singapore's Ministry of Health says there have been no applications to register electronic nicotine delivery systems as smoking cessation therapy.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health, citing a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, said it would continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of electronic nicotine delivery systems - the most common of which are e-cigarettes - which have not been proven as an effective aid for those try to quit smoking.

"There is very limited and inconclusive evidence that ENDS work as a method for quitting tobacco smoking," the MOH said on Wednesday (Aug 27), citing the WHO report on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) released the previous day.

Singapore is one of 13 countries worldwide which has banned the sale of ENDS.

The WHO report states that the vapour from ENDS, including e-cigarettes, to users and nearby bystanders), can have the following potential effects:

  • An adverse effect on brain development in unborn babies, children and teenagers
  • The development of nicotine addiction
  • Exposure to toxic and cancer-causing chemicals
  • Exposure to PM 2.5 particles.

"The Ministry of Health takes a serious view of the importation of these products into the country, including online purchases and hand-carrying into Singapore. The import, distribution and sale of ENDS, including e-cigarettes are currently prohibited under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act," the MOH said.

"ENDS, including e-cigarettes, that claim to be smoking cessation products to help smokers quit tobacco use should demonstrate their safety and effectiveness with the same level of scientific rigour required for approved Nicotine-Replacement Therapies under the Medicines Act.

"As yet, there have been no applications to register ENDS as smoking cessation therapies. As the WHO report indicates, there is as yet no conclusive evidence that supports the registration of ENDS for this purpose."

The ministry added that smokers seeking to quit smoking should use methods that have been proven to be safe and effective. These methods include going cold turkey, undergoing smoking cessation counselling, and undergoing nicotine replacement therapy, which have proven to be effective in helping smokers quit smoking in the long run.

It added that smokers who wish to quit can speak with a Quit Consultant on the toll-free Quitline at 1800-438 2000, or join the iQuit club at www.iquitclub.sg. In addition, health ambassadors under the Health Promotion Board’s I Quit programme provide peer support to help smokers quit the habit. 

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