KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — Health think tank Galen Centre has proposed a ban on e-cigarettes and vaping products, saying that legalising them may not work because of likely poor enforcement.
Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib also foresaw negotiations that would result in compromise and a weaker law.
“So we argue it’s better to ban and take the Singapore approach to the issue of e-cigarettes,” Azrul told a recent forum by the Addiction Medicine Association Malaysia on hotspots in addiction medicine here.
Singapore has banned e-cigarettes, but not conventional tobacco products, arguing that it did not want new tobacco products to enter the country.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye reportedly said recently that proposed legislation on e-cigarettes and vaping products would regulate the composition of vape juices and to prohibit sales to minors below 18.
Azrul alleged that although Malaysian vaping companies claimed to be against underaged vaping or smoking, they were targeting young people and non-smokers because hardcore smokers were a small market, selling colourful flavoured e-cigarettes with flavours like menthol, candy, teh tarik.
“If you look at campaigning of tobacco products in 1960s to e-cigarette campaigns today, you’ll find when it comes to messaging for young people, they’re similar – cool, trendy, hip, sexy.
“Tobacco used to have the Marlboro Man. In those days, you had the Marlboro Man. Today you have a healthy person working out, eating healthy food, and also smoking an e-cigarette. It’s starting to appeal to young people and non-smokers.”
He also pointed out that tobacco giants have started producing their own e-cigarettes.
Azrul highlighted a poster by an e-cigarette company comparing the much lower expenditure of its e-cigarette products than traditional cigarettes, with e-cigarettes only costing RM40 a week and RM160 monthly, compared to RM102 and RM510 of weekly and monthly expenses on conventional cigarettes respectively.
He claimed, however, that rather than smokers switching to vaping, data has shown non-smokers taking up e-cigarettes.
“Rather than dealing with the issue of smoking, it’s creating a new area of smoking, which is e-cigarettes.
“We have data, even from the UK and here, that there are many instances where they’re both smoking traditional cigarette and e-cigarette. There’s no real data to indicate that the majority of those who transition from cigarettes to vape will stop altogether.”
He warned Malaysia about potential nicotine poisoning from vaping products because of the lack of standards for e-juices.
E-cigarettes come in two forms — mods and pods. Mods are where tanks can be refilled with any e-liquids, while pods come prepackaged with e-juices that are replaced once they’re finished. Mods and pod-based e-cigarettes are popular in the Malaysian market.