The popularity of e-cigarettes or vapes among young people has “posed a new challenge to tobacco control efforts” because of their possible use for drug use, a recent Health Bureau study says.
The results of the “5th Macau Youth Tobacco Use Study” show that a continuous downward trend in tobacco use among local youth has been recorded since 2015, especially traditional tobacco, which has reached a historic low in 2021.
The study said that in 2021, some 3.8% of students aged 13 to 15 were described as traditional tobacco users, a significant decrease from 6.1% in 2015.
“However, 4% of these young people use electronic cigarettes, an increase of 1.4% compared to 2.6% in 2015, higher than the percentage of current use of traditional cigarettes”, underlines the study.
According to health authorities, this study served as a reference for the recently revealed proposal to ban the production, sale, distribution, import, export and transport of e-cigarettes and vapes in SAR.
The study was conducted in 25 schools covering a total of 1,820 young students aged 13-15, of whom 82.2% responded to the survey.
The Macau Health Bureau estimated that 16.1% of students surveyed were “mistaken” in thinking that e-cigarettes help those who want to quit smoking.
“The nicotine in e-cigarettes can make our brains more prone to addiction to other substances. Moreover, e-cigarettes can become drug vectors. If someone dares to put cannabis or another type of drug in the liquid of electronic cigarettes, it can cause young people, in addition to developing the harmful habit of smoking, to become addicted to the drug,” noted the Office. of health.
Authorities noted that in recent years, retailers have promoted campaigns to promote e-cigarettes as “trendy products that cause less harm compared to traditional tobacco,” which the ministry says “causes many young people to try this “novelty”.
“In fact, e-cigarettes open the door to potentially more serious and harmful harm to health. E-cigarette users are more likely to use traditional cigarettes in the future,” the ministry said.
The World Health Organization recently warned that e-cigarettes and vapes could act as a “gateway” to tobacco use and a global systematic review recently found that children and adolescents who use them are more twice as likely to later use conventional cigarettes.
The Chinese authorities have also moved forward with new policies for the production, marketing and sale of electronic cigarettes, placing them under the same rules of licensing, production, sale, import / export and taxation, between other rules, than traditional tobacco products in March this year.
The policies establish a wide range of other technical standards, including permitted ingredients and additives, nicotine levels, testing and safety standards, and accreditation. They also prohibit the sale of vapes of any flavor other than tobacco.
The vape or e-cigarette industry in mainland China has exploded in growth over the past couple of years into a certain gray regulatory area as mainland authorities now attempt to increase regulation in the sector.
The Macao SAR government brought e-cigarettes within the scope of the Tobacco Control Law in 2018 and began the process of amending the law to strengthen import and distribution control, in order to “better protect the health of young people”.
With regard to exposure to second-hand smoke, student responses from the Macao Health Bureau survey are relatively similar to those given in previous surveys, with 36.3% of them experiencing second-hand smoke. second-hand smoke in enclosed public spaces and 30.1% of them being prone to second-hand smoke. at home.
“The government will continue to follow the health promotion smoking control policy gradually and step by step” and implement the six MPOWER strategies advocated by WHO,” the department noted.
These included tobacco monitoring and prevention policies; protect people from tobacco smoke; provide support to quit smoking; warning against the harmful effects of tobacco; prohibit tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and increasing tobacco taxes.