Vaping in Singapore? Here are Some Myths About It and Other Flavoured Tobacco Products |

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You’ve probably heard the myth that “vaping is not smoking”, and there’s a lot of people out there who believe in the idea that e-cigarettes, shishas, and “lights” are safer than smoking traditional tobacco. However, all tobacco products contain nicotine, which is a toxic substance that raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, thereby increasing your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.

The harsh truth is that vaping (or other forms of nicotine inhalation) is not that much different from lighting up a regular cigarette – and in some case, they’re actually worse for you. Here’s why:

Myth 1: Vaping is harmless

Just because you don’t see tobacco leaves or smell smoke, vape pens (or e-cigarettes) still deliver harmful nicotine to your system. The nicotine in the cartridge (e-juice) is heated up to turn it into vapour which users inhale.

While the youth in Singapore no longer see smoking as glamorous and are aware of its harm, they’re attracted to e-cigarettes, according to Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon, and they’re able to obtain despite them being banned here (it’s also banned in 27 other countries). It’s been illegal to buy online (even for personal use) since 2018, and you can be fined and jailed for it.

However, it’s not difficult these days to find people vaping in Singapore, given that there are still people openly selling them via vape chat groups (a CNA report revealed at least 10 such groups in Singapore on Telegram). The one rule among the groups seems to be restricting the sale to those 18 and above – and such channels are on the authorities’ radars. The HSA has recently stepped up enforcement.

A US study revealed that more middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2021. This could be due to the fact that youths find the lack of smoke appealing, and that the variety of flavours make it enticing.

While e-cigarette makers have touted them as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, they can be even more detrimental to your health – and it’s not just about it being a gateway to traditional cigarettes. According to the American Heart Association, studies found that those who vaped had a higher risk of heart disease – namely, total and LDL cholesterol – and that e-cigarettes decrease blood flow to the heart more than traditional cigarettes.

The biggest and most common danger of vaping would be EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping products use-associated lung injury), the symptoms of which resemble pneumonia, like shortness of breath and cough which may result in severe lung injury requiring mechanical ventilation. EVALI doesn’t respond to antibiotics, and in severe cases, may lead to death, according to doctors who’ve treated patients with vaping-related illnesses.

Also, the sweet scent could be masking harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde (linked to risk of cancer); acrolein and diacetyl (may cause lung damage); and harmful metals like lead and nickel. Since e-cigarettes are much newer than traditional cigarettes, we may not yet know the full extent of the damage they can cause.

Photo by FORMM agency on Unsplash

Myth 2: Roll-your-own cigarettes are safer

You’ve probably seen roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes (aka ‘ang hoon’ or rollies or roll-ups) which smokers see as a cheaper alternative to regular cigarettes. Since users roll their own cigarettes, its “artisanal” appeal made it popular among younger smokers, according to a 2018 study in Ireland published in BMC Public Health.

Many smokers believe that rolling their own cigarettes allows them to cut back on smoking and/or avoid the harmful chemicals found in regular filtered cigarettes. However, RYO cigarettes still contain harmful chemicals found in regular cigarettes, so they both cause the same diseases. In addition, RYO smokers tend to inhale more tar and nicotine due to the lack of a filter (plus the amount of tobacco in each stick varies).

According to the American Cancer Society, lifelong RYO smokers have a higher risk of 16 types of cancers—including larynx and mouth — than those who smoke regular cigarettes. Remember: the size of the cigarette doesn’t make a difference because you’re still inhaling nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide.

via Medical Xpress

Myth 3: Flavoured cigarettes are better as they cause less irritation

Menthol cigarettes are also popular among the youth, since it many people think that, because they create less throat irritation, they’re “safer” than regular cigarettes. That couldn’t be further from the truth: menthol interacts with nicotine in the brain to make it more addictive, so it’s no surprise that Singapore’s menthol market share has remained stable at over 40% since the mid 2000s.

As of 2018, Singapore’s had a huge share of the world’s flavoured cigarette market, accounting for 48% of menthol and 3% of capsule cigarettes! While most flavoured cigarettes in Singapore are menthol, there are other flavours like lemon, berries, and bubblegum, some with a crushable flavour capsule. Much like vape pens, these capsule cigarettes appeal to the youth who’re drawn to their novelty, flavours, and packaging design.

Flavoured cigarettes have been banned by several countries (including parts of the EU, Brazil, and Canada) because they encourage smoking initiation, and are more addictive than regular tobacco products.

Myth 4: Shisha is harmless

To observers, smoking a shisha looks harmless because you breath in from a waterpipe. Contrary to popular belief, the water in the pipe doesn’t absorb harmful substances in the smoke. Studies have shown that the shisha smoke contains the same harmful components found in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine, tar, and heavy metals.

Shisha users tend to take more and deeper puffs, thus absorbing more toxic substances in a single session compared to a single cigarette. In fact, within an hour, users will inhale 100 to 200 times the amount of smoke, up to 9 times the carbon monoxide, and 1.7 times the nicotine produced by a single cigarette!

It’s popular among the youth as it’s often a social activity, but the import, distribution and sale of shisha tobacco is prohibited by law in Singapore.

Ban of smoking areas and cigarettes

Despite the increase in tobacco taxes and the reduced number of smoking areas across Singapore, smoking remains one of the nation’s most pressing health issues. Smoking rates among young Singaporeans haven’t decreased since 2004, and smoking (including second-hand smoke exposure) is associated with at least 11 major medical conditions, accounting for about $180 million of healthcare costs in Singapore in 2019. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette; the only guaranteed way to reduce the health risk is to stop smoking completely.

If you’re wondering why vaping and shisha are banned, but not traditional cigarettes, it’s because about one in 10 Singaporeans are addicted to tobacco products, and they’ll need time and support to quit. Banning it too soon will give rise to black markets and smuggled goods.

In addition to reducing the number of smoking spots, Singapore is open to studying New Zealand’s cohort ban on smoking, where the legal smoking age will be raised by one year every year, effectively banning the sale of tobacco to those born after 2008. Even Malaysia is looking to implement a similar ban on smoking for people born after 2005.

From July 2022, Singapore will ban smoking at most parks and beaches, and are working on discouraging smoking at home. Will a cohort band in Singapore work?