KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — A national body representing doctors in private practice in Malaysia once again asked the Ministry of Health (MoH) to “consider the science of harm reduction before rushing ahead with the generation endgame (GEG).”

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), which has about 5,000 members, said general practitioners are key stakeholders who should be engaged before drafting the policy.

“The general practitioners (GPs) are the persons who are the first touch point for the patient. They are important because the patients have the confidence of their family doctor. Doctors trained in quit smoking programmes have the relevant expertise, experience and the nationwide network to engage with smokers,” said Dr Steven Chow, president of FPMPAM.

He added that GPs know “that it is not only the nicotine dependence/addiction that makes quitting cigarettes difficult. Some smoke for stress relief and other psycho-social pleasure.”

Most importantly, the GP “is a key asset in any quit smoking programme and their input is valuable to the national GEG conversation.”

The proposed Bill, which is currently being reviewed by the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC), will ban the use and sale of cigarettes and vape products for those born after 2007.

“There are many credible studies with supporting evidence for harm reduction. Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians (Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction2016) have authoritative reports documenting overwhelming scientific data that harm reduction efforts can work with proper regulatory framework in place,” said Dr Chow.

“It is also pertinent to look at other new studies from other countries where harm reduction programmes have been in place for many years.

“In Malaysia, the field of tobacco harm reduction is in sore need for comprehensive basic clinical epidemiological research, and we must take the time and use our resources to explore this option.”

He added that rushing the GEG and excluding harm reduction from the policy would be a missed opportunity “as we may be losing out on an achievable option that can have a meaningful impact on the tobacco epidemic.”

Dr Chow explained that in addition to engaging with stakeholders, the ministry must conduct more methodologically sound clinical epidemiological studies on harm reduced products.

“Differences in the risk profiles of all non-combustion nicotine products need to be quantified and regulatory policies and clinical recommendations should be tailored to address their different risk profiles.

“It will be disastrous if we have to do a U-turn on GEG five years down the road.”