Tobacco Harm Reduction Has The Potential To Reduce Smoking Prevalence

25 November 2021 (Kuala Lumpur) – The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), a national body representing doctors in private practice in Malaysia, concluded its first tobacco harm reduction (THR) conference over the weekend, attended by more than 150 participants from the medical community. 

In total, 13 speakers including three international THR experts, presented studies, opinions and recommendations on THR. 

Dr Steven Chow, President of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), said, “We are pleased that the first THR conference in Malaysia was well attended by our fellow health practitioners. The conference highlighted the differing views, but there was agreement that the harm from smoking is a longstanding universal issue and needs to be effectively addressed.”

“More than 1.1 billion people smoke worldwide, resulting in cardiovascular diseases, various cancers, and obstructive lung diseases. 

Globally, this quiet pandemic claims the lives of approximately five million people per year, a figure that will rise to 10 million by 2030, with the burden of death increasingly being felt by many developing and under-developed countries.”

“The medical community has a vital role to play in fighting tobacco addiction. Collectively, we agree that THR has the potential to contribute toward smoking cessation, which remains the primary goal of our community.”

Aimed at members of the scientific, public health and medical community, the virtual conference facilitated the exchange of ideas, knowledge, research findings and recommendations for the adoption of THR in Malaysia. 

Local speakers included Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, Deputy Dean (Relation & Wealth Creation), Faculty of Medicine, UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia & Lecturer, Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine, UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia; Dr Sivakumar Thurairajasingam Deputy Head (Education), Consultant Psychiatrist & Associate Professor, School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia; and Dr Lily Diana, Consultant Respiratory Physician, Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur. 

In addition to local medical professionals, the conference also featured three international speakers; Karl Fagerstrom from Sweden, the founding member of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco and Deputy Editor of the Nicotine & Tobacco Research; Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, External Research Associate, Department of Public and Community Health University of Patras (Greece); and Clive Bates, Former Director of Action on Smoking and Health (UK) and Tobacco Harm Reduction expert. 

“The first step in the successful implementation of THR strategies in Malaysia requires comprehensive regulation of the entire ecosystem. Regulations must be based on sound evidence, patient-centered and allow adult smokers access to THR information and treatment options. The conference called for GPs to be specially trained and to offer smoking cessation counselling and treatment as part and parcel of their daily practice. At the end of the day, population health measures need to be translated to individual patients seeking help from their doctor.”

“Engagement with all stakeholders and consumers is important to ensure regulations will work for the individual wanting to quit smoking” Dr Chow concluded.

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