Prioritizing science-based solutions to reduce smoking prevalence in Malaysia — Ariffin Fii | What you think

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FEBRUARY 12 — Smoking is the leading preventable cause of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It is also the only risk factor common to the four main groups of NCDs: cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes.

Reducing tobacco use is therefore key to reducing the global incidence of NCD deaths – an ambition both reflected and quantified by the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Despite all tobacco control efforts, the tobacco epidemic is one of the greatest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than eight million people a year worldwide. More than seven million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while approximately 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.[1].

In Malaysia, there are approximately 4.8 million smokers and it is estimated that more than 27,200 deaths of Malaysians per year are related to smoking.[2]. The media also reported that the government is expected to spend some RM7.4 billion[3] in the treatment of major diseases caused by smoking, such as lung cancer and coronary problems by 2025.

Although there have been many intervention programs initiated by the government, few smokers have successfully quit smoking. In 2019, it was reported that over a seven-year period, a total of 73,836 smokers participated in smoking cessation programs in Malaysia, but all 23% quit within six months, which is only 16,930. people.[4].

It is clear from the statistics that current strategies to reduce the incidence of tobacco use are far from sufficient to achieve the public health agenda of our country. It is therefore essential that we continuously evaluate our strategies to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

One such strategy is to embrace evidence-based scientific innovations such as vaping and develop pragmatic policies and regulations that enable the use of these products to reduce levels of illness (morbidity) and death. (mortality) due to smoking among smokers.

In a recent report published by DARE (Datametrics Research & Information Center), a Malaysia-based think tank, analysis found that vaping alone, through regulations and encouraging cigarette smokers to switch to vaping as less harmful alternative, may reduce the smoking population in Malaysia. to four million by 2025, or less than 15% of the overall Malaysian population.

Furthermore, the report estimates that vaping will help the country reduce its healthcare expenditure for the treatment of smoking-related diseases by a whopping RM1.3 billion in 2025 alone. These are significant figures that we do not we can ignore.

DARE’s findings support many substantial international studies that demonstrate that if smokers have a choice between less harmful products that are available, affordable, accessible and appropriate, they will be willing to make the switch. I firmly believe that with correct and unbiased information on these scientific tools for smokers and the public, along with properly and fairly regulated policies, Malaysia will be able to achieve the 5% smoker target by 2045 or before.

* Dr. Arifin Bin Fii is a physician currently focusing on addiction therapy, with experience in conducting harm reduction programs. With nearly 30 years of practice, Dr. Arifin has a multidisciplinary background that includes general medicine, pediatrics, and surgery.

** This is the personal opinion of the author or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malaysian courier.



[2] National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019

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