KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — More than 500 people have signed an online petition by International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) students demanding Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa to reinstate liquid and gel nicotine into the Poisons Act 1952.
The petition, launched by The Good Society IIUM last July 8, called for young people to denounce the removal of liquid and gel nicotine used in e-cigarettes and vape from the Poisons List gazetted by Dr Zaliha in an order last March 31.
“We call on all youth to join us in speaking out against the delisting of nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 in Malaysia. We must urge our government to prioritise the well-being of our society. Together, we can make a difference and protect our youth from the dangers of nicotine addiction,” read the group’s statement on iPetitions.
The Good Society IIUM’s petition against the declassification of liquid nicotine as a scheduled poison was supported by other student groups in the public university, including the IIUM student union, Kulliyyah Based Society Council, and the Mahallah Representative Committee.
In an update posted last week on Instagram, The Good Society IIUM said their representative had raised their petition with Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh last July 9.
Yeoh and Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, who is also special advisor to the health minister, previously said they stood by the referral of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 to a parliamentary special select committee last month, citing the government’s “collective responsibility”.
The delay in passage of the tobacco and vape control bill means that e-cigarettes and vape continue to be legal since the declassification of liquid nicotine last March 31, without any restrictions on sale to minors aged below 18, or other restrictions on nicotine content, sales and distribution channels, or advertising, sponsorship and promotion, like in sports.
The Good Society IIUM said their petition garnered over 300 signatures and 100 comments within the first 24 hours, with many young people expressing concern about the impact of nicotine delisting on their peers.
“FYI (for your information), nicotine is a highly addictive substance that can have serious health consequences, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Delisting nicotine from the Poisons Act would make it easier for young people to access this dangerous drug. We cannot allow this to happen,” said the students’ group.
Signatories of the petition include Health Action International Asia Pacific (HAIAP), an informal network of non-governmental organisations and individuals in the region committed to health issues.
HAIAP commented: “Malaysia’s exclusion of nicotine ‘vapes’ from poisons control is quite out of line with Malaysia’s tobacco control which is a great example for many other countries. Please rectify this mistake immediately to protect people – particularly young people – from the effects of these dangerous products. Look at Australia’s recent legislation for guidance.”
Under regulations in 2021, Australia implemented stringent regulations restricting access to vapes, now available solely by prescription as a second-line treatment for adult smokers who have exhausted conventional quitting methods.
The Australian government also announced a ban on the importation of non-prescription vaping products, including those without nicotine. Minimum quality standards for vapes will also be introduced, including limitations on flavours, colours, and other ingredients.
Anti-tobacco coalition Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) with over 40 organisations, anti-tobacco group the Malaysian Green Lung Association (MGLA), and child rights group Voice of the Children (VoC) recently filed for judicial review in the High Court against the health minister’s March 31 order that removed liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons List.
Court hearing for the case is scheduled for July 26.
In a shocking defence of the declassification of liquid nicotine, Dr Zaliha recently said she saw no problems with the removal of liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952. The health minister that the removal did not imply that the Ministry of Health was denying the poisonous nature of nicotine or disregarding children’s health.