The Hidden Colours Of Vape – Look Keyun, Dr Ser Hooi Leng, Dr Amar Daud Iskandar Abdullah, Prof Elil Renganathan & Prof Long Chiau Ming

Our study on 28 vape liquids sold in Malaysia showed that nearly all products (27 of 28) contained added colours. However, none disclosed the presence of colours on their labels. All samples contained flavouring agents, but only 86% stated this on labels.

Electronic cigarettes and vape products, including vape liquids, are easily accessible in Malaysia due to inadequate regulations. These vape products contain nicotine, colourings, and flavouring agents, substances confirmed by numerous studies to be harmful not just to our lungs, but other body organs too.

There is robust evidence of the increased appeal of fruit or dessert-flavoured e-liquids, especially among young users.

An independent study has been conducted by a biomedicine and public health research team from the School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University. We carefully selected a diverse range of 28 vaping liquids sold in Malaysia, considering various manufacturers, price ranges, and flavour profiles to ensure a comprehensive representation.

Out of these 28 vaping liquids, 18 were sourced from an online platform, while 10 were purchased directly from physical vape stores.

  • Nearly all products (27 out of 28) contained added colours in their vaping liquids. However, none of the analysed vaping liquids disclosed the presence of these colours on their labels.
  • Colours used included green, brown, and yellow, corresponding to the intended flavour (e.g., red for strawberry, yellow for mango).
  • 86 per cent of the products claimed to use flavouring agents on their labels. All samples, however, were found to contain flavouring agents.

Our results mirror similar studies conducted in the United States, where synthetic dye additives were found in e-liquids. While these dyes are generally safe for ingestion, their safety upon inhalation is yet to be proven.

The levels of these colourants in e-liquids were as high as those in food items – comparable to vaping liquid containing the same amount of colouring agent.

Just imagine inhaling the same amount of colouring agent present in your regular red sirap bandung drink or yellow jagung ice cream!

Despite these alarming concerns, there is a significant lack of regulation in Malaysia concerning the use of dye additives in vape liquids. This contrasts with regulations in the United Kingdom and European Union, where additives with colouring properties in vape liquids are prohibited.

Moreover, these colourants are not designed for heating and inhalation. They could degrade into harmful substances or accumulate in the lungs in patterns we don’t fully understand yet.

To add to the problem, previous research also shows that fruit or dessert flavoured e-cigarettes are more appealing than flavourless ones. Nicotine and flavourings interact in complex ways, and fruity flavour sensations are used to mask unpleasant throat irritation and bitter taste caused by nicotine.

The use of ingredients such as synthetic dyes and flavouring substances in vape liquids, combined with non-transparent labelling, could potentially increase health risks. We hope our research will prompt policymakers to take swift and appropriate action to ensure public safety and health.

Look Keyun, Dr Ser Hooi Leng, Dr Amar Daud Iskandar Abdullah, Prof Elil Renganathan and Prof Long Chiau Ming are from the School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University.

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

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