Think tank Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy today reiterated its call for the health ministry to ensure that the anti-smoking bill to eradicate smoking among the youth is passed, following concerns over the sale of e-cigarettes or vape aimed specifically at the age group.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had voiced regret over reports of e-cigarettes designed to look like toys, said to have been sold in front of a school.
But Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said Zaliha’s statement only demonstrated the futility of the health authorities in protecting vulnerable individuals when laws such as the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill remain unpassed in Parliament.
"To this day, despite being an industry worth an estimated RM 2.3 billion and this country being the largest market in Southeast Asia, the marketing and selling of vape and its products remain unregulated in Malaysia,” he said.
“4.9% of the population currently vape and this number is rising by the day.
"As a consequence of the lack of legislation or regulation, nothing is able to prevent, restrict or prohibit the manufacturing, marketing and selling of vape products that not only are deliberately intended for young consumers but also contain high nicotine content."
In Malaysia, he said, vape liquids in a single disposable with up to 5% of nicotine are available at RM1o to RM20.
“Such high concentrations even in small amounts are toxic for children,” he added.
"Unfortunately, in the absence of the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, there is currently a massive gap in existing legislation regarding the sale of products containing nicotine, specifically vape.The sale of cheap vape disposables containing high concentrations of liquid nicotine currently cannot be prevented, restricted or banned. Anyone, including children, can buy them."
The Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 seeks to prohibit those born on or after Jan 1, 2007 from purchasing or possessing cigarettes or vape products.
It aims to prevent the younger generation from picking up the smoking habit, and to reduce deaths caused by smoking-related diseases.
Dubbed the Generational End Game, it was tabled by then health minister Khairy Jamaluddin on July 27, 2922 for first reading but was referred to the parliamentary special select committee for refinement.
In a statement, Azrul said children as young as 10 are becoming newly addicted to nicotine.
"This is why the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill proposed to regulate the vape industry in the same way that the tobacco industry is currently regulated, especially regarding advertisements, marketing, promotion and sponsorships,” he said.
“It will help rein in and regulate vape which has gone out of control in this country."