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Experts say smokers must be told about safer options

Aug 30,2019
Since the launch of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn cigarettes, there’s always been some disagreement over how much less dangerous these new ways to smoke actually are compared to traditional combustible cigarettes.

According to global health experts, they are significantly less dangerous.

“The problem is the delivery system,” said David Sweanor, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, at a press event following the Asia Harm Reduction Forum Seoul 2019 in Yeouido, western Seoul.

Sweanor explained that the biggest health risk is the act of “inhaling smoke into their lungs repeatedly in order to get nicotine,” adding e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn cigarettes are tools that reduce the amount of harm. Breathing in smoke is not healthy, according to Sweanor.

The dominant view in Korea is that there isn’t much difference in terms of health hazard between the new forms of cigarettes and the traditional kind. That view can also be seen on advertisements encouraging people to quit smoking produced by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Compared to regular tobacco, heated cigarettes have reduced short-term adverse health outcomes in several organ systems like improved exercise capacity and decreased systemic inflammation, according to Carrie L. Wade, director of global harm reduction at R Street Institute.

Due to the reduced risk, experts argue that e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn cigarettes should be treated differently.

“Encouraging people to quit smoking is of course a necessity,” said Konstantinos Farsalinos, a researcher at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece. “But knowing that this is not going to eliminate smoking tomorrow, we need to tell them what are other alternatives. We need to provide reliable information to smokers who cannot quit”

Farsalinos added, “it is completely irrational to treat [new forms of cigarettes] the same way as tobacco… Not informing smokers [of reduced harm] is basically punishing the smokers.”

The e-cigarette and vaping device market could be especially lucrative in Korea since Koreans tend to be health -conscious and technologically savvy, meaning more people are open to change the way they smoke.

“It could save millions of people and make billions of money,” said Sweanor.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]


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