The Malaysian Family Medicine Specialists Association (FMSA) is deeply concerned about the use of vape and electronic cigarettes among young people.
We note that more adolescents are getting involved in vaping, which is being promoted by some as a new economic opportunity for the country and as a smoking cessation method.
However, there is no strong evidence supporting vaping as a smoking cessation therapy, and the economic costs associated with vape-related illnesses like EVALI outweigh potential benefits.
Countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand, which have relaxed regulations on vaping, have seen an increase in youth addiction to vaping, raising concerns among health care experts, especially paediatricians and family medicine specialists.
The Adolescent Health Survey 2022 revealed changing trends in smoking among teenagers, with a decline in traditional cigarette use but an increase in vaping.
Alarmingly, 6 per cent of teenage vapers are girls, compared to only 1 per cent of conventional smokers. This indicates that young people are more attracted to vaping due to curiosity, lifestyle, and appealing flavours.
Furthermore, since the removal of nicotine liquids from the Poison Act in April 2023, nicotine sales are no longer regulated by law in Malaysia, allowing uncontrolled sales to underage individuals. Vape products are even sold alongside candies and stationery in convenience stores, posing a significant risk.
Medical experts at the University of Malaya are deeply involved in advocacy efforts to prevent smoking and vaping among young people. They have observed troubling vaping patterns among school-aged adolescents, including the use of vape with hallucinogenic substances and the addition of tar to e-liquids.
These behaviours not only pose severe health risks but also lead to social problems like drug-related assaults, as witnessed in Sabah in May 2023.
Moreover, vape devices using lithium-ion batteries can explode and cause serious injuries, and the chemicals in vape liquids have the potential to harm the lungs and respiratory tract. Some students have reported a decline in physical activity ability after becoming addicted to vaping.
A 15-year-old teenager can easily purchase vape products without age verification and has admitted to adding road tar to e-juice for a stronger ‘high’. Another 13-year-old student was recently expelled from school due to repeated incidents involving vaping.
In light of these concerns, the Malaysian Family Medicine Specialists Association (FMSA) strongly urges the government to pass the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 during the October 2023 parliamentary session.
Any delay or postponement of this bill would put our youth at significant risk. FMSA condemns any attempts to politicise this issue and hide behind legislative powers entrusted to them.
Dr Nor Hazlin Talib is president of the Malaysian Family Medicine Specialists Association (FMSA).
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