Why are heat-not-burn products picking up fast among smokers in Malaysia?

Heat-not-burn products have just hit the market as another alternative to cigarette smoking.
Heat-not-burn products have just hit the market as another alternative to cigarette smoking.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — The smoking ban in eateries that will kick in with the new year shows is another move on the part of the government to crack down on smoking.

While non-smokers may be pleased with the outcome, how will this affect smokers’ decision to quit?

Recently there has been a rise in the use of alternative tobacco products, such as IQOS, Glo and Ploom Tech which are heat-not-burn products that claim to have a significantly reduced harm on the body and environment, while giving smokers the same kick of a cigarette.

So, what’s all the hype about?

Harm reduction

Heat-not-burn products claim to be significantly less harmful on the body.
Heat-not-burn products claim to be significantly less harmful on the body.

It has been claimed that heat-not-burn products emit up to 95 per cent less harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke.

A cigarette contains around 600 ingredients and when it is burned it releases about 7,000 chemical substances, about 70 of which are known carcinogens.

Heat-not-burn alternatives work differently. The tobacco is heated — rather than burned — to produce a nicotine-containing vapour with a flavourful taste.

The  No Fire, No Smoke: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2018 research paper cites that smokers who switched completely to these alternatives reduced their exposure significantly to 15 toxicants.

Despite popular opinion that nicotine is the leading cause of harm when it comes to smoking, research shows that “nicotine does not cause smoking related disease, such as cancers and heart disease. These are caused by other chemicals found in tobacco smoke.” 

Therefore, as these heated tobacco products emit vapour, it reduces the risk associated with the smoke from combusted cigarettes. This could also be better for the public as they will not be hit by second-hand smoke as with traditional cigarettes.

Unlike vapes, heat-not-burn devices use tobacco and not liquids.
Unlike vapes, heat-not-burn devices use tobacco and not liquids.

Alternative for smokers who are unable to quit

Heat-not-burn products are seen as less harmful when compared to traditional cigarettes.
Heat-not-burn products are seen as less harmful when compared to traditional cigarettes.

For a longest time, smokers were encouraged to just quit this nasty habit but the introduction of e-cigarettes, vapes, and heat-not-burn products gave those who found it hard to quit some alternatives.

Although there is no single study which can answer questions like whether it improves public health, many countries are making the switch, with some even looking into changing legislation.

For example, in countries like Japan and South Korea, heat-not-burn products are quickly displacing cigarette sales at a hitherto unseen rate.

In the UK, the UK Department of Health is working to help people quit smoking by permitting innovative technologies that minimize the risk of harm, and maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.

In Norway, smokeless tobacco is fast replacing cigarettes with a long-term decline in daily smoking. In 2017, for the first time, the proportion of the population using smokeless tobacco — 12 per cent — exceeded that of those smoking cigarettes.

At 11 per cent, Norway now has one of the lowest levels of daily smoking in a developed country.

In an article from The New Zealand Herald, the associate minister of health announced that the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 would be amended next year with an aim to give smokers more confidence in the quality of vaping and smokeless tobacco products.

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