GATS Malaysia Survey Proves Vape Availability Doesn’t Cut Tobacco Smoking

The 2023 GATS Malaysia survey proves that vape availability does not cut tobacco smoking. Current tobacco smoking prevalence dropped only 4 points to 19% in 2023 from 23.1% in 2011, but dual tobacco/ e-cig users rose to 3.9%. Vape prevalence surged 600%.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — Findings from the 2023 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Malaysia show that the availability of vape did not significantly reduce tobacco smoking or cause smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.

While the national prevalence of current tobacco smoking dropped only by about four percentage points from 23.1 per cent in 2011 to 19 per cent in 2023, dual users of tobacco and e-cigarettes rose from 0.8 per cent to 3.9 per cent in the same period.

Alarmingly, vaping prevalence in Malaysia surged 600 per cent over the past 12 years, with 5.8 per cent of people aged 15 and above now e-cigarette users, compared to only 0.8 per cent in 2011.

These figures indicate that smokers who picked up vaping continued to smoke tobacco cigarettes, instead of switching completely to e-cigarettes.

Also, a huge new market of nicotine addicts has emerged from those who vape or use e-cigarettes.

According to GATS Malaysia 2023 by the Institute for Public Health under the Ministry of Health, the majority of e-cigarette users are aged 15 to 24 years, making up 8.6 per cent of users, up from 1.1 per cent in 2011.

Other major e-cigarette users are those aged 25 to 44 years, accounting for 7.1 per cent of users. Those aged 45 to 64 years represent 2.8 per cent of e-cigarette users, while those aged 65 and above account for only 0.7 per cent.

The top three reasons for using e-cigarettes are the availability of likeable flavours, the perception that they are less harmful than smoking, and greater enjoyment.

The 19 per cent national prevalence of current tobacco smoking in 2023 among adults aged 15 years and above falls short of the target of 15 per cent or lower by 2025, the GATS survey noted.

It took 12 years to cut the rate of current tobacco smokers by four percentage points from 2011 to 2023. Hence, reducing the 19 per cent national smoking prevalence by another four points in just two years to 15 per cent by next year seems highly unlikely.

The 19 per cent national tobacco smoking prevalence rate is equivalent to 4.8 million adults aged 15 years and above. Of this total, 3.7 million people, or 14.6 per cent, smoke every day.

More than one in three men in Malaysia currently smoke tobacco, or 35.7 per cent, down by 8.2 percentage points since 2011. About 1.5 per cent of women in the country currently smoke tobacco, up by 0.5 percentage points since 2011.

Over a third (37.6 per cent) of tobacco smokers are between the ages of 15 and 44 years. GATS highlighted that 60 per cent of smokers aged 20 to 34 reported having their first cigarette before turning 18.

The GATS survey released last May 16 revealed that smoking cessation and health care behaviour among adults who currently smoke and those who attempted to quit in the last 12 months have remained stagnant.

About 41 per cent of adult smokers in Malaysia have no plans to quit, while only 9 per cent plan to quit within the next month. Approximately 13 per cent are considering quitting within the next 12 months, and another 37 per cent intend to stop someday.

GATS pointed out that e-cigarette marketing appears to be more prominent. Approximately 40.5 per cent of e-cigarette users and 23.5 per cent of tobacco users reported noticing advertisements, sponsorships, or promotions related to tobacco and e-cigarettes.

About 21.4 per cent of e-cigarette users and 8.1 per cent of tobacco users encountered tobacco and e-cigarette marketing predominantly online.

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