Malaysia’s Nicotine Legalisation Nightmare: The Devastating Consequences – Mahirah Ma’som

We must continue to advocate for better tobacco control in Malaysia, with or without the government’s involvement. 

Imagine your child coming home from school, talking excitedly about whatever they’ve learnt or went through today. Lo and behold, you see a device fall out of their school uniform pocket as you were doing their laundry. 

It’s a small, cute, colourful plastic tiger in a dinosaur outfit. A new toy, perhaps?

Imagine your horror, when you learn later that this harmless-looking toy is actually a toxic device, ready to make your child a customer of the tobacco industry for the next few decades. Who is stopping this? What are the responsible authorities doing about it?

The recent decision by the Malaysian government to remove nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 has caused outrage among many health care specialists and professionals.

For those who have been battling the tobacco industry for decades, it is definitely a step back, as evidence has shown the many detrimental effects of nicotine usage. 

When it was classified as a poison, it was widely known that nicotine poses risks and potential negative outcomes when used. There was a significant barrier against widespread use and gave a layer of protection to public health. 

The immediate repercussion of the recent move is that nicotine has been reclassified as legal and safe to consume. This has rendered efforts by health care professionals useless because of the contradiction.

Is the Ministry of Health not aware that their decision will promote addiction and put many youths and children at risk? We already see an increase in nicotine-related health issues in the media, worryingly affecting the younger generation. 

These are not minor cases, with some having fatal outcomes such as the death of a 16-year-old girl who had a previous history of vaping. It was reported that she was likely suffering from e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI). 

Another example is the case of nicotine poisoning involving a 2-year-old, a shocking yet unsurprising consequence of the above decision. There will be more of such cases to come, I’m sure. 

We must push for stronger regulations to preserve the health of the vulnerable, in particular the next generation, which is at the highest risk of becoming the next customers of the tobacco industry. 

With our commitment to public health, we must continue to advocate for better tobacco control in Malaysia, with or without the government’s involvement. 

Mahirah Ma’som is a health care professional.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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