Gazettement of laws urgently needed to curb vape addiction

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) wants the government to speed up the gazettement of the regulations for e-cigarettes and vaping.

This delay in gazetting regulations has led to significant public health risks and allowed the vaping industry to exploit regulatory gaps.

We have been informed that the draft of the regulations was already completed since the end of last year but there has been no news about it since. The government must explain the reasons for this delay.

It is troubling to hear that 111 cases of exposure to questionable vape liquid were reported to the National Poison Centre between 2015 and last year.

This was apart from the reported cases of e-cigarette and vape-associated lung injury (Evali). It was also reported that a number of these cases involved minors. This was revealed in Parliament last week.

No one knows who else might have been exposed to other “questionable” vape substances and without regulation, who will be held accountable?

The following are among some of our key concerns:

Proliferation of vaping near educational institutions

In the absence of enforced regulations, we have observed a troubling trend where mobile vape kiosks are being set up around universities and schools.

These kiosks not only sell vaping products but also promote vaping as a lifestyle choice to young people, leading to early nicotine addiction and the normalisation of vaping.

The aggressive marketing of vaping as trendy and desirable is deeply concerning as it can foster long-term addiction, particularly among impressionable youths.

Irresponsible management of nicotine

The decision by the government to remove nicotine from the Poisons Act almost 15 months ago, without promptly gazetting the necessary tobacco control regulations, is highly irresponsible.

This move has ignored the government’s duty to protect public health and has been seen by the public as favouring commercial interests over the well-being of our young people.

Tobacco industry interference

The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023 reveals the ongoing and troubling influence of the tobacco and vape industries on public policy in Malaysia. The industry has been involved in policy-making processes, often under the guise of economic benefits and reducing smuggling.

Corporate social responsibility activities by the industry are used to build a positive public image and gain support from the community and policymakers, despite the harmful nature of their products. The lack of transparency in meetings held between industry representatives and government officials also raises concerns.

Impact on youth and public health

The surge in vaping among youths has profound implications for public health. Early nicotine addiction not only poses severe health risks but also necessitates intensive behavioural management.

Vape advertisement on a digital billboard in 2023

Nicotine addiction affects the brain, altering behaviour and cravings, making it challenging to quit once addiction sets in. If left unaddressed, the current exposure to vaping among the youth will complicate the management of non-communicable diseases in the future, burdening the healthcare system, reducing productivity, and imposing socio-economic strains on families and the nation.

Given these pressing concerns, MMA urges the government to expedite the gazettement of the regulations under the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024.

Immediate actions required include:

  1. Restricting the sale and promotion of vaping products near educational institutions to prevent the targeting of youth by the vaping industry.

  2. Implement stringent advertising and packaging regulations to reduce the appeal of vaping products to minors.

3. Strict enforcement to curb illegal sales and marketing practices, ensuring that vaping products are inaccessible to those under-18.

Vape products displayed next to toys in a convenience store

Multi-ministerial cooperation needed

We call for a coordinated effort involving the Health Ministry, Education Ministry, Higher Education Ministry, and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. This multi-ministerial collaboration is essential to effectively protect our young from the dangers of vaping.

Appeal to lawmakers

MMA appeals to MPs to take a strong stance on this critical issue. By pressuring the government to finalise and implement these regulations swiftly, MPs can play a vital role in safeguarding the future of our younger generation.

The health and well-being of our youth should be a top priority, transcending political and commercial interests.

We look forward to the support of all MPs in addressing this urgent matter and stand ready to collaborate on initiatives aimed at curbing the spread of vaping and protecting our youth from its harmful effects. - Mkini

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT

Gazettement of laws urgently needed to curb vape addiction