Minister Tells Parents To Protect Children From Vape After Liquid Nicotine Delisted

Dr Zaliha Mustafa tells parents to protect their children from e-cigarettes and vape, after the health minister delisted liquid nicotine last March 31, legalising the sale of nicotine vape to minors aged below 18. “Parents should be good role models”.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has put the onus on parents to protect their children from e-cigarettes and vape, after the government declassified liquid nicotine for taxation purposes.

Dr Zaliha also admitted the existence of a “lacuna” in the law following the removal of liquid and gel nicotine from control under the Poisons Act 1952 – which she herself had gazetted last March 31 – that legalises the sale of vape and e-cigarettes with nicotine to minors aged below 18.

“At the same time, the MOH (Ministry of Health) is always advising the public that any use of smoking products, including e-cigarettes or vape, is harmful to health through various media platforms,” Dr Zaliha said in a written Dewan Negara reply last June 22 to Senator Sivaraj Chandran.

“MOH also calls on parents to be more vigilant to ensure the safety of their children and to not expose their children to risky activities, such as smoking and using e-cigarettes or vape. Every act by parents will be observed and followed by children; accordingly, parents should be good role models.

“With the existence of this bill, the issue regarding the lacuna in the law following the exemption of preparations that contain nicotine in the form of liquid or gel used for the purposes of vaping through e-cigarettes and electric vaporisation devices from the Poisons List under the First Schedule of the Poisons Act 1952 (Act 366) will be overcome.”

The health minister, however, did not state in her parliamentary reply when the government aims to table the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 for second reading in the Dewan Rakyat, telling the senator only that the bill – which regulates tobacco and vape products, with or without nicotine – was tabled for first reading in the Lower House last June 12. 

The government referred the tobacco bill to the Health parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) immediately after first reading, before even allowing MPs to debate it in the full chambers of the Dewan Rakyat. 

Dr Zaliha’s reminder to parents comes following two recent cases of nicotine poisoning of a two-year-old toddler and the death of a 16-year-old girl from probable e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI). The teenager’s death last June 5 was believed to be the first reported EVALI-linked fatality in the country.

Besides telling parents to watch their kids, Dr Zaliha touted “self-regulation” for the vape industry to avoid selling its products to young people.

She also said the MOH was “cooperating” with other agencies on enforcement of vape and e-cigarettes through controls of imports, devices, premise licensing, and manufacturing licensing. To date, only the Johor state government has maintained its ban on e-cigarettes and vape.

Sivaraj asked the health minister to state the latest status of the implementation of the generational end game (GEG) provision, and how the decision to delist liquid or gel nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 was expected to affect the implementation of the policy. 

Dr Zaliha replied that the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill retained the GEG provision that bans tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007.

The latest data from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022 has revealed a significant increase in the prevalence of e-cigarette and vape use amongst Malaysian teenagers, accompanied by a decline in the rate of smoking conventional cigarettes.

According to MOH’s highlight survey, the prevalence of teenagers aged 13 to 17 years currently using e-cigarettes or vape rose from 9.8 per cent in 2017 to 14.9 per cent in 2022, marking a notable increase over the five-year period.

“The bill with the Generational End Game provision represents a pressing need, considering the situation where there is a significant increase in smoking prevalence, including e-cigarettes or vape, since these entered the market in 2015. 

“This increase is very noticeable, primarily amongst teenagers, most of whom are new users,” said Dr Zaliha. 

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