KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has urged the vape industry to voluntarily avoid selling e-cigarettes to young people, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said today.
Dr Zaliha also described the declassification of liquid or gel nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 last March 31 as being “in line with the government’s collective decision” to impose excise duties on e-cigarette or vape liquids containing nicotine.
The government failed to secure passage of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 – which regulates e-cigarettes and vape – in the last Dewan Rakyat meeting, sending the bill instead to the Health parliamentary special select committee after first reading in the Lower House last June 12.
This means that nicotine vape will continue to remain legally accessible to children and teenagers aged below 18, ever since the March 31 delisting of liquid nicotine that was signed off by the health minister herself, in a veto of unanimous objection from the Poisons Board.
“The Ministry of Health has run several engagement sessions with the e-cigarette or vape industry; they were reminded to play a role in self-regulation to control the problem of the sale of electronic cigarettes or vape to society, particularly the young generation,” Dr Zaliha said in a written Dewan Negara reply to Senator Lim Pay Hen today.
Lim had asked Dr Zaliha for the MOH’s stance in response to the Malaysia Council for Tobacco Control’s (MCTC) allegations that the government had increased the exposure of children and youths to nicotine in e-cigarettes, following the removal of liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons List.
The health minister said the MOH has run anti-smoking campaigns, such as the Tobacco Generational End Game 18 (Gegar-18) campaign, quit-smoking programmes in schools like the Oral Health Without Smoking (Kotak) programme, as well as programmes with tertiary education institutions and youth groups.
“Besides that, the MOH has also taken immediate action through cooperation with various other agencies to increase enforcement, for example higher enforcement on controls of import, devices, business licences, and manufacturing licences,” Dr Zaliha said.
To date, only the Johor state government has maintained its ban on the sale of vape products, subsequent to the declassification of liquid nicotine.
The Melaka state government announced last month investments from China for a vape industrial park project.
Despite the MOH’s pleas for “self-regulation”, the vape industry targets youths through advertising on TikTok, colourful product packaging, arrays of sweet and fruity flavours, retail on Facebook, and online delivery of products through platforms like foodpanda.
Vape vending machines are also being trialled in Malaysia. At a vape trade expo in Kuala Lumpur last month, an e-cigarette manufacturer from China openly told CodeBlue that it was targeting youths – instead of existing smokers – with trendy products for a vaping lifestyle.
The health minister’s special advisor Dr Kelvin Yii today acknowledged that education, surveillance, local government regulations, and import controls were not sufficient to control vape and e-cigarettes, following the delisting of liquid nicotine and the tobacco bill limbo.
“Therefore, there are strong efforts to ensure passage of the bill as soon as possible and we are ready to work with the PSSC for this important task,” Dr Yii said in a series of tweets.
The Bandar Kuching MP explained that prior to the June 12 tabling of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill for first reading, no MPs had seen the draft bill due to the Official Secrets Act, with the Health PSSC and other legislators giving feedback after receiving MOH briefings only on the “principles” of the bill.
“If the decision was only with the minister and me, I would have approved the amendments early on. But as policymakers, we hear from all quarters, whether we agree or not, to get as much buy-in as possible,” Dr Yii said.
“That is the process, and we’re now doing our best to keep the bill alive because there are many quarters who want to kill this bill.”