PETALING JAYA: For decades, governments around the world have been trying to get smokers in their countries to quit through various tobacco control measures.

While some measures have worked and some produced less than fulfilling results, discussions on the solution in recent years have shifted to nicotine vaping as smokers and ex-smokers are heavily favouring it as an alternative to smoking for various reasons.

Numerous studies, including a recent toxicological assessment by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products, and the Environment in the United Kingdom, indicated that nicotine vaping is less harmful than smoking.

But while it may be a more viable alternative to cigarettes, can vaping actually help smokers kick the habit?

A recently published survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in UK, a public health charity and a tobacco control advocate that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco, said more than half of vapers in Great Britain are ex-smokers, and the proportion has been growing year-on-year.

“Use of e-cigarettes is largely confined to current and ex-smokers, and use amongst never-smokers remains low. Of the 3.2 million current vapers, just under 2 million are ex-smokers and 1.2 million are current smokers,” said ASH which was established by the Royal College of Physicians, a British professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine with a rich history of over 500 years.

In fact, the University College of London Smoking Toolkit Study, which provides monthly data on smoking behaviour and tobacco control measures shows a clear link between the rate of smokers quitting and the prevalence of vaping.

Recent evidence from a randomised controlled trial also showed that vaping was nearly twice as effective as Nicotine Replacement Therapy in helping smokers quit in a Stop Smoking Service setting in England.

This could help explain why 41% of ex-smokers in the ASH survey opted for vaping to help them quit. A further 20% said they took up vaping to prevent going back to smoking.

While the main reason given by current smokers for vaping, is to cut down (24%), help them quit (14%) and to prevent relapse (14%).

And interestingly, approximately 60% of all vapers view that improving their health is their number one reason for vaping.

Still, while there is growing evidence that vaping is a viable alternative to smoking, it is important to note that this is not without conditions. Health experts and a number of studies have qualified that it being less harmful than cigarettes is dependent on strict adherence to standards and regulations of vape products including nicotine in e-liquid.

In the UK, regulations have been put in place to regulate the products as consumer products including no sale to those below 18, putting a cap on nicotine strength in e-liquid, putting controls on marketing activities and products must be child-resistant and tamper-evident.

This is something industry players in Malaysia have long called for, and the introduction of a taxation regime on vaping products from next year is widely seen as the first step towards regulation. However, it is critical that a regulatory framework is introduced and covers all facets of the industry including regulating e-liquids with nicotine.