KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — The Malaysian Thoracic Society has called for a complete ban on e-cigarettes and vaping products, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended either regulation or a ban.
Dr Nurhayati Mohd Marzuki, head of the respiratory medicine society’s special interest group on tobacco and environmental health, claimed that allowing e-cigarettes to be regulated would normalise smoking.
She said the move would also expose Malaysians, especially youths, to nicotine addiction — a highly addictive component that is inhaled through an infused aerosol in e-cigarettes and vaping products.
“The device might also be used for illicit drugs, as had been reported cases in some countries,” the Kuala Lumpur Hospital consultant respiratory physician said.
A lung disease outbreak in the United States last year was linked to the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Although certain quarters believe that a ban on e-cigarettes will lead to illicit sales, Dr Nurhayati said this could be prevented with a good policy in place and proper enforcement on the ground.
More than 30 countries worldwide have banned e-cigarettes, Dr Nurhayati, who is also the director of the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, told CodeBlue.
“By banning e-cigarette(s), we will protect our population, especially our youth, from nicotine addiction and harm to health,” she said. “It will also protect non-users from aerosols secondary.”
She referred to the 2016 National E-Cigarette Study that showed that 600,000 Malaysians used e-cigarettes, and 3.6 million people in the country were being exposed to e-cigarette vapour.
She also cited the findings of the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Survey Among Malaysian Adolescents, also published in 2016, which found that 300,000 Malaysian youths were using e-cigarettes.
There is currently no evidence that e-cigarette use is superior to conventional smoking cessation therapies, such as nicotine replacement therapies, for tobacco users looking to quit, she added.
Not only that, but more evidence is coming up related to health implications of e-cigarette use on not only users but also those exposed to aerosols secondhand, she said, echoing the WHO.
The public health agency of the United Nations last month said e-cigarettes are unsafe for users and equally harmful to those exposed to secondhand vapour emissions.
The WHO did, however, note that it is too early to say for sure the long-term impacts of using or being exposed to e-cigarettes, despite saying that these products “pose clear health risks and are by no means safe” all the same.
But the WHO recognised that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use conventional cigarettes, cigars, or hookahs, and noted that countries can choose to ban e-cigarettes or regulate them in places where they are not banned.
It said regulation, ideally, should disrupt the promotion and uptake of e-cigarettes and vaping products, reduce the potential health risks to users and non-users, prohibit false or unproven claims from being made about the products, and protect existing tobacco-control efforts.
Malaysia has yet to do either and there are no specific regulations governing the sale and use of vaporisers and e-cigarettes. However, a ban on vaporiser liquids containing nicotine has been in place in the country since November 2015.
The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC), an anti-smoking umbrella group of over 40 non-governmental organisations, has also urged the government to ban e-cigarettes and vaping products , saying there is no scientific evidence that contradicts the WHO’s recommendations on this.
The previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration had planned to introduce legislation this year to regulate vaping products and e-cigarettes, but the government collapsed this week after Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and a group of PKR MPs pulled out from PH. It is unknown if Parliament will continue to meet next month or if a snap election will be held.