KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 – Parent groups have finally spoken up to demand the tabling and passage of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, more than six months after nicotine vape was legalised without restrictions.
Their statements were issued after the government made an apparent U-turn in tabling the tobacco and vape control bill in Parliament for second reading, despite Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s initial announcement for the tabling yesterday.
“This bill has long been awaited by all parties in combating smoking, especially the use of vape that is extremely prevalent in society, particularly teenagers,” SMK Taman Setiawangsa Parent-Teacher Association (PIBG) YDP Amiruddin Sahudi said in a statement.
Amiruddin – who is also the focal person for Pelibatan Ibu Bapa, Komuniti Serta Sektor Swasta (PIBKS) under the Ministry of Education – urged the government to expedite the tabling of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill that proposes a generational end game (GEG) to prohibit tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007.
“PIBGs can play an important role in raising awareness and understanding for all parents about the dangers of smoking to children or students, in which the lack of monitoring will lead to the consumption of prohibited substances that can ruin the future of Malaysian children.”
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022, e-cigarette and vape use among Malaysian school students aged 13 to 17 rose from 9.8 per cent in 2017 to 14.9 per cent in 2022, while cigarette smoking rates in this group dropped from 13.8 per cent to 6.2 per cent.
Nearly a quarter of male adolescents currently use e-cigarettes or vape at 23.3 per cent, as well as 6.2 per cent of female teenagers.
Permuafakatan Ibu Bapa Prihatin Sentul chairman Zainoddin Ramelan similarly raised concerns about the prevalence of vaping among school students and the sale of e-cigarettes in the open market that attract adolescents.
“Parents and teachers are very worried about the problem of smoking. Children as early as nine years old start using smoking products, especially vape,” Zainoddin said in a separate statement.
“What is more worrying is that the vape products currently available in the market have very high nicotine content, while some are even laced with dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and magic mushrooms.”
E-cigarettes with nicotine strength of up to 5 per cent are commonly found in the Malaysian market, unlike other countries that regulate vape like the United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and New Zealand that cap nicotine strength in e-cigarettes to 2 per cent to 3 per cent.
Permuafakatan Ibu Bapa Prihatin Sentul urged the MOE to be “more serious” in helping school students with smoking or vaping habits, instead of merely focusing on disciplinary actions or punishment.
“Nicotine is an extremely addictive substance, compared to other drugs, which means that children caught smoking will almost certainly repeat their actions.
“Therefore, a more holistic approach is needed, not just by the MOE that is in charge of students in school, but other government agencies to ensure that products like vape are not easily accessible to children outside of the school gates.”
The parent group also highlighted the case of a 16-year-old girl who died last June from probable e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI), the first Evali-linked fatality in the country.
“This was a very distressing incident that should not be repeated. Therefore, the government must have a strong resolve to not only eradicate poverty, but also to stop the creation of new cigarette and vape users so that Malaysia, in the coming two decades, can birth a healthy generation who is free from a chain of problems arising from cigarettes and vape.”
The MOH claimed that the tabling of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill for second reading was delayed to make way for “other government business” in the House, despite the urgency for the bill after the health minister exempted liquid nicotine from control under the Poisons Act 1952 last March 31.
The exemption – made unilaterally by Dr Zaliha in an exercise of her ministerial powers overriding the Poisons Board’s unanimous objection – effectively legalised the sale of e-cigarettes and vape with nicotine to anyone, including minors aged below 18, as there are currently zero regulations on vape. Conventional cigarettes are regulated separately by existing tobacco control regulations under the Food Act 1983.