After Vape Tax Announced, MOH To Amend Poisons Act

Khairy Jamaluddin says the Poisons Act is being amended to be in line with current needs, but did not specify if the sale of nicotine by non-medical parties would be allowed after the government announced a tax on vaping liquids containing nicotine.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) said it is in the process of amending the Poisons Act 1952 that regulates medicines and drugs, including nicotine.

Hulu Langat MP Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus asked on November 1 if MOH would increase fines under the Poisons Act on the possession and sale of e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine to prevent vaping among youths.

The government previously announced that under Budget 2022, which was tabled in Parliament on October 29, vape and e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine would be taxed

Regulating vaping products and e-cigarettes would mean that at the very least, the Poisons Act must be amended to authorise non-medical parties to sell nicotine, which is currently listed as a Group C poison, that can only be sold by registered pharmacists and doctors. 

The government would also likely have to amend the Food Act 1983 to regulate vaping products and e-cigarettes, as the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations — empowered by Section 36 of the Food Act — only regulates conventional cigarettes and tobacco products.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, in his written reply to Hasanuddin, did not specifically state if the Poisons Act would be amended to authorise the sale of nicotine by non-medical parties.

“The Health Ministry is currently in the process of amending the Poisons Act 1952 to update the Act so that it is in line with current needs,” Khairy said.

“These amendments involve raising the schedule of punishments, including fines for offences related to poisons.”

He reiterated that selling products containing nicotine other than for medical treatment is currently prohibited under the Poisons Act that imposes a fine of not more than RM3,000, maximum one year’s jail, or both for any offence under the law.

Tobacco control groups have opposed the government’s proposed tax on vaping products as they reiterated their call for a complete ban, but the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) maintains that vape should be seen as a tobacco harm reduction product. 

The doctors’ group said while nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, the main cause of harm comes from tar and other toxins in the smoke produced from burning of tobacco.

“The taxation levels for tobacco harm reduction (THR) products in Malaysia must remain risk-proportionate, benchmarked against high-risk products such as cigarettes,” said FPMPAM president Dr Steven Chow. 

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