His suit against the authorities six years ago had changed the way electronic cigarettes had been regulated across the United States and Europe, allowing the “safer” alternative to be used among former smokers across the continents the way it is today.

In 2009, Ray Story, the founder of the United States-based Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), began the multi-million dollar battle to have the devices to be re-categorised from a pharmaceutical product to a tobacco product and won the year after, which changed the face of the vaping industry in the years that followed.

He said he was moved to challenge the law as the authorities had cracked down on his business, similar to the way enforcement was being meted out against vape sellers in Malaysia today.

“My battle with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was that it was categorised as a medicinal product which is simply not correct.

“I then litigated against that based on what the definition of a medicinal product is, and the definition is clear, that a medicinal product has to stop or cure, or mitigate the cause of a disease.

“And since nicotine does not have any pharmacological effect, meaning it does not alter the function of mind or body, it means if you vape on this and it doesn’t change the way you behave, your mind or your body, it’s clearly not a medicine,” he told The Rakyat Post when met at the “Harm Reduction in Asia — Developing a Regulatory Framework for E-cigarettes Symposium” here earlier this month.

The symposium was organised by Factasia.org in the wake of the intense debate over the harm reduction potential of e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative for adult smokers.

The group’s initiative comes at a time when the Hong Kong and Macau governments are considering completely banning the sales of e-cigarettes.

At the centre of the heated argument on whether to ban or regulate e-cigarettes was nicotine, the addictive substance which encouraged smoking habit.

However, the combustion associated with conventional cigarettes had brought along with it thousands of other cancer-causing chemicals and carcinogens which contributed to millions of smoking-related deaths worldwide.

However, the introduction of e-cigarettes, which came into prominence over a decade ago, had been made to reduce the harmful impacts associated with smoking.

Public Health Englad (PHE), the body which advises the government in the United Kingdom, had attested to the positive impact of e-cigarettes, which it found, in a recent study, to be about 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

The suit had influenced the way the European Union Tobacco Products Directive was formulated in all 28 member states to ensure that at least the product was legal, regulated in a manner which was consistent.

Story alleged the likely reason for governments to categorise nicotine as a “poison” was because big pharmaceutical companies wanted control over the substance, as they had interests in other nicotine replacement therapies such as chewing gum, and nicotine patches, among others.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO), is the talking point for big pharmaceutical companies and the Health Ministries across the globe, and they are all staffed by either big pharma people or government people that used to be with big pharma or vice versa,” he further alleged.

“Nicotine is just like caffeine, at the end, they categorise it as a poison but yet pharmacies get to sell it. I thought that pharmacies, all that they did was to sell products to the public that actually improves human life, so now its okay for them to sell poison?” he asked.

He said it was simply absurd to think that that was the right category, or was the right approach for a product when nicotine is available in anything.

“Nicotine is a natural occurring alkaloid, which is similarly contained in tomatoes, potatoes, and green peppers, so it is certainly not a poison.

“It may be addictive, that is true but certainly not a poison, poison, or anything that is toxic is always determined by the dosage, if you drink too much water, it’s also deadly.

“They categorised it and miscategorise it, and they did it because they had the ideology that if they owned that category, that they are the only ones that have it.

“And they are a business just like we are a business, so I understand that they are going to do whatever it takes to protect that,” he claimed.

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