KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Feb 2017:

While debate over rising usage of vaping devices or vapes continues, experts and proponents alike nevertheless agree on a key point – the entry point to vapes will always be more expensive than cigarettes, because of the extra electronics pricing.

This higher price entry point, as such, lowers the potential of someone picking up the nicotine habit with vapes – as compared to cigarettes, which can cost mere sen per stick rather than almost RM100 for vapes.

And for those who do pick up the nicotine habit via vapes, the same reasons apply as to why many start smoking cigarettes – peer pressure and feeling the need to fit into the social group, or just to project a ‘rebel’ image.

This premium pricing factor could be a major educational and awareness that regulatory authorities can take advantage of, said Julian Morris vice president of research at non-profit think tank Reason Foundation.

In a recent interview, he acknowledged that higher vape device pricing can be an attractive factor for those drawn to the nicotine habit as this results in a more premium image projected compared to the ‘dirty’ or ‘filthy’ cigarette smoking – which leaves ashes and burnt butts plus yellowing teeth and fingers.

“The global push for plain packaging for cigarettes and packs is also a turn-off for those who want to project their individuality. It’s a conundrum that may not make much sense – they want to fit into the social group, but yet be able to stand out.”

With vape devices, just like smartphone covers, there is still much room for individual expression – plus business opportunities for the enterprising, he noted.

All these factors, together with the extra margin of safety with vaporous nicotine consumption – due to reduced or eliminated intake of tar and various carcinogenic chemicals found in burning tobacco – makes vaping a better alternative for those with the nicotine habit, said Morris.

“Vaping is also used by many who see it as a way to reduce chemical dependence on nicotine, and eventually quit altogether.”

Given these multitude of advantages, Morris said authorities should focus on regulating key aspects like nicotine levels and allowed ingredients – rather than turning vaping into a prescription-only purchase.

And since regulatory reforms can take time, legislative measures can often be overtaken by the speed of advances within the vaping industry and swiftly become outdated.

“For example, certain substances are no longer used because of widespread concerns raised in social media. Heating temperature limits have become a safety standard due to potential fire hazards. And all this took place within a matter of months. Regulatory changes take far longer.”

As such, Morris agrees with the view that regulatory authorities should tread lightly for now as the vape industry is still evolving rapidly.

“Setting safety goals and outlining tax implications should be their immediate focus. This will prompt the vape industry to further evolve to becoming something we can all find acceptable.”

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