Innovation and Harm Reduction Policies Can Save More Lives in Taiwan
The Government of Taiwan is considering a package of amendments to The Tobacco Hazards Prevention and Control Act (THPCA) to prevent and lessen the hazards associated with tobacco products. This amendment is an important milestone since it expands indoor non-smoking areas and most significantly, allows for the commercialization of heated tobacco products, commonly known as “heat not burn” (HNB) devices, that are dependent on a health risk assessment.
At the same time, these amendments proposed by Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoH) seek to strictly regulate HNB devices and ban e-cigarettes which are safer, less harmful alternatives, and proven quit aids. Other restrictions include increasing the legal age of purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 20 years and banning flavored tobacco products.
It is no doubt that the sale of HNB devices is a major step in the right direction and will positively contribute towards smoking cessation efforts. This can explain why 88% of cybercitizens voted to pass the bill as quickly as possible.
HNB products do not go through the typical combustion process of cigarettes. As a result, HNB devices mimic traditional cigarettes by creating vapor while not releasing very harmful carcinogens found in combustible tobacco products. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved of HNB devices as “appropriate for the protection of the public health because (. . .), the products produce fewer or lower levels of some toxins than combustible cigarettes.”
HNB devices are widely sold throughout the world in more than 50 countries and have led to a significant decrease in smoking as seen in South Korea and Japan. To maximize smoking cessation efforts, the commercialization of electronic cigarettes must be added to this package of amendments.
Adding electronic cigarettes can prevent smoking-related deaths and sustain cessation rates for the 5 million smokers in Taiwan. There is widespread evidence indicating that electronic cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than smoking combustible tobacco and more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies and non-nicotine electronic cigarettes. Countries like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and New Zealand were able to reduce smoking rates twice as fast as the global average by embracing electronic cigarettes and other reduced-harm products.
Further, although Taiwan is celebrating a breakthrough policy proposal for the commercialization of HNB devices, electronic cigarettes should be heavily considered. This suggestion can save millions of lives.
Lorenzo Montanari is the Executive Director of Property Rights Alliance.