Amid the reported illnesses and injuries related to use of electronic cigarettes, or e–cigs for short, and vapes, our Kapihan sa Manila Bay today discussed the growing trend in the use of these devises with health authorities and experts to help us understand why Filipino smokers still prefer these alternative devices to satisfy smokers’ nicotine craving.
Collectively called as ENDS, or the acronym for electronic nicotine delivery systems, smokers who try to quit their habit have resorted to the use of these alternative products that supposedly would help them in transition to ending their nicotine addiction.
Just like any other addiction, withdrawal symptoms after one chain smoker quits cigarettes, dreads prospects of turning “cold turkey” once you stopped. “Cold turkey” describes the similarities between a drug addict in the throes of withdrawal and a turkey’s carcass. A nicotine addict on withdrawal after having stopped smoking would appear both clammy, pale and covered in goose bumps. This is why perhaps that a smoker who suddenly quit looked like a “cold turkey.”
We invited Dr.Anton Javier of Food and Drug Authority (FDA) who is in charge of e-cigs, vapes and heated tobacco products along with Harm Reduction expert Dr. Tikki Pang, and Richie Aquino who is actively involved in “Quit for Good” group in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico, Malate.
Sharing his own experience when he started smoking at age 15 years old, Aquino recalled how it was difficult going through that phase of turning “cold turkey” when he tried to quit smoking.
Our own FDA here in the Philippines just issued a public advisory to all hospitals, both government and private, to report to their agency or to the Department of Health (DOH) to forward cases of illnesses and injuries related to e- cigs and vaping following such cases in the United States (US) and elsewhere with the increasing use of ENDS.
Reports reaching the Philippines have it that US health officials have started investigations into the cases of dozens of people, mainly teenagers who were hospitalized with severe lung injuries in recent weeks after vaping. But as of late, the specific cause or causes of their illnesses remains a mystery.
Since there is no conclusive results yet on these reported cases, a former official of the World Health Organization (WHO), Pang vouched e-cigs are “less harmful” than traditional cigarettes and that Filipinos should not be deprived of the chance to quit smoking using these products.
Pang claimed that he is “personally disappointed that WHO has taken a negative stand” on E-cigs despite it being a “potential of alternative products to deal with smoking problems.” Many countries, including the Philippines, he rued, follow WHO’s position on the products which, he believes, should not happen.”You should make your decision based on your own local context, including criteria like how big is your disease burden and that you have 16 million smokers. That’s huge,” he maintained.
As the project manager for Product Research and Standards Development at the FDA, Javier argued there are evidence “pointing to uncertainty on the safety profile of E-cigs. “Much like the traditional tobacco products back in the 19th century, physicians were not certain of the safety profile of tobacco because of the latency of health effects of these products,” Javier pointed out.
The 31-year old doctor of medicine, Javier added, smoking, side effects “will not be immediately apparent until 20 years down the line until you already have oral cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and other forms of cancer associated with cigarette smoking.” He disclosed government efforts to regulate the use of e-cigs are precisely geared towards an “entire gamut of issues,” including the vape users eventually becoming tobacco smokers later instead of the intended purpose as transition to quitting cigarette smoking.
For more details of our conversations at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay, please read my Commonsense column this Friday at The Philippine Star.