In Support of Risk-Proportionate Regulation of E-cigarettes and Heated Tobacco Products in Vietnam

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: E-cigarettes offer a public health opportunity to improve the lives of cigarette smokers who cannot or do not want to stop consuming nicotine by offering them a viable alternative that is comparatively far safer. A sensible regulatory framework can maximize the positive impact of e-cigarettes and minimize unintended consequences.

Policies and regulations that treat e-cigarettes the same as combustible cigarettes encourage current smokers to continue doing enormous harm to their health by discouraging a switch from combustible products. Conversely, policies that reflect the reduced harm of e-cigarettes can significantly reduce the burden of disease that combustible cigarettes impose on society.

The Royal College of Physicians stated that e-cigarettes are unlikely to exceed 5 percent of the risk associated with combustible cigarettes. These products are relatively far safer because they don’t rely on the traditional cigarette combustion process that releases 7,000 chemicals—some of which are highly carcinogenic.

E-cigarettes have helped reduce smoking rates in places where they've been a part of the tobacco control framework. They have become the number one stop-smoking tool in the world. It is estimated that e-cigarettes could save up to 6 million lives by 2100 if only 10 percent of current smokers switch to e-cigarettes over the next 10 years.

Heated tobacco products have contributed to a dramatic decline in cigarette consumption in Japan, where cigarette sales volumes have fallen by 33 percent in three years as e-cigarettes have increased in popularity.

E-cigarette regulations should follow the below framework:

  1. Regulations should be ‘risk-proportionate’—meaning that tougher measures should be applied to the riskiest products (cigarettes) and a more permissive approach should be taken with lower-risk products, with the aim of encouraging users to switch from high-risk to low-risk products.
  2. A well-defined regulatory environment is necessary for consumer goods that carry some risk but can also mitigate chemical, electrical, thermal and mechanical risks to users and discourage uptake by adolescents.
  3. Creating an environment that allows for responsible use of e-cigarettes is preferable to an environment where black markets, adulterated products and criminalization flourish.

Sensible regulations to maximize effectiveness include restrictions on minimum purchasing age, advertising, packaging warnings, and maximum nicotine limits.

Read the full comment letter HERE