Tobacco Bill Appears To Prohibit Quit-Smoking Services To Minors

The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill prohibits the provision of “any services for smoking” to minors aged under 18, without specifically exempting quit-smoking services. NRTs (nicotine patch and gum) are also not specifically exempted.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 – The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 appears to prohibit quit-smoking services to children and teens aged below 18.

In the new version of the tobacco and vape control bill, tabled in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday for first reading, Section 13(1) prohibits the sale of “substitute tobacco product” and provision of “any services for smoking” to minors. 

The bill does not define “any services for smoking”, nor explicitly exempt the provision of quit-smoking services from the prohibition.

Punishment for such offences, upon conviction, is a fine up to RM20,000, or up to one year’s jail, or both for the first offence if the person is not a body corporate. If the person convicted of an offence under Section 13(3) is a body corporate, they are liable to a fine between RM20,000 and RM100,000, up to two year’s imprisonment, or both, for the first offence upon conviction.  

Section 13(3) also makes it an offence for minors to purchase any “substitute tobacco product”, subject to a fine not exceeding RM500 or community service, upon conviction.

Section 17(1) prohibits minors from smoking, chewing, or using “in any manner whatsoever” any tobacco product, or smoking “any substitute tobacco product”. Contraventions are punishable with a fine of up to RM500 or community service upon conviction.

“Substitute tobacco product” is defined as “any product or processed product, other than a tobacco product, that is capable of being smoked, whether with or without smoking substance”.

The bill does not specifically exempt nicotine replacement therapies or smoking cessation products – like the nicotine patch and gum – from the definition of “substitute tobacco product”.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) itself runs a quit-smoking programme called mQuit.

According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS): Adolescent Health Survey 2022, about 14.9 per cent of teenagers aged 13 to 17 currently use e-cigarettes or vape, while 6.2 per cent of the same age group of minors currently smoke conventional cigarettes.

Section 7(e) of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill prohibits the advertising of any “tobacco product, smoking substance, or substitute tobacco product” as a “quit smoking product”. 

This will likely prevent vape companies from promoting e-cigarettes or vapes with nicotine – which do not contain or burn tobacco – as a method to help smokers switch to vaping from smoking conventional cigarettes.  

Malaysia’s MOH currently does not recognise vapes as a quit-smoking method. 

In Australia, e-cigarettes or nicotine vapes can only be legally sold with a doctor’s prescription, but the Australian government recently announced plans to ban imports of disposable vapes from January as teenagers still find it easy to access nicotine vapes despite existing restrictions.

Although the United Kingdom does not licence vaping products as stop-smoking medicines, which means they’re not available on prescription from the NHS, vaping starter packs may be offered by local stop-smoking services by the NHS.

The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill is expected to be tabled later today for second reading for debate.

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