The case for harm reduction

Clearly there is consumer demand as well as a public health imperative to legitimise e-cigarette use in Asia-Pacific countries and clear up the confusion surrounding their safety and use.

A clear regulatory framework is therefore recommended to assure (adult) consumers of goods of satisfactory quality*, as in other trading sectors.

Among countries where there is or is soon to be a regulatory framework for production and/or use of ECs, there is a considerable variation from “light” to “heavy” regulation. The EU’s TPD and the UK’s British Standard are two easily-assimilated alternatives towards the heavy end of the spectrum, either or both of which can be relatively simply “customised” to suit individual trading conditions.

Much of the necessary regulatory framework is already available in most jurisdictions. However, “nicotine is not tobacco. To regulate it the same way that tobacco is regulated sends the incorrect message to consumers that the dangers of e-cigs are similar to tobacco cigarettes. ‘Tobacco control’ is the wrong framework because it seeks to limit and prohibit use, whereas e-cigs can help end the smoking habit.” – Prof Gerry Stimson.

There is also the extreme “light-touch” version advocated in New Zealand by experts such as Dr Marewa Glover: “Vaping is not a public health issue. It should not attract precious funding away from very real threats to public health. Like many other products, electronic cigarettes and e-liquids are already covered by existing consumer laws. Because of the huge cost involved in assessing, consulting, lobbying and debating new regulations or laws, I oppose the call for regulation of electronic cigarettes, e-liquids and vaping. The money is needed elsewhere – it should not be wasted on this. I do not think it is even necessary to legislate for ‘safety and product quality’. Existing consumer protection laws should be sufficient.”

factasia recommends licensing of retail outlets, together with regulation for production, handling and storage of e-cigarette components and materials, providing governments with the necessary cover of duty of care. However, the aim of regulation should be to provide safe and easy access for adult smokers to less harmful alternatives of ‘satisfactory quality’* (formerly ‘merchantable quality’), so they should be – within reason, as previously stated – readily available at retail level to adults only, with effective age-of-sale regulations just like many other consumer goods.

* “Satisfactory quality” (legal definition): “Goods will be of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory. It is a relative standard dependent on matters such as price and description. Aspects of quality include durability, safety, appearance, and freedom from minor defects.”