The government recently announced the intention to ban smoking in hotels by end of 2016 and subsequently extend it to other public places. Hoteliers from the Malaysian Association of Hotels, however, wondered if the Tobacco Control and Smoking Bill will provide designated smoking zones. Until the implementation of the ban, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) stands firm that the government must not accede to any appeals to designate smoking areas such as cigar bars.
A complete ban on indoor smoking is in-line with Article 8 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). By allowing designating smoking zones the health of the employees and non-smokers in the building would be jeopardised.
The government should also consider banning e-cigarettes just like what Thailand and Singapore did because it is currently unregulated. By definition, e-cigarettes include e-pens, e-hookah and e-cigars and they are collectively known as electronic nicotine delivery systems. These devices, used by about a million Malaysians, are not regulated as they are not within the ambit of Food Act 1983 and therefore there are no safety checks or requirements.
According to the American Lung Association, it is almost impossible to regulate e-cigarettes and e-liquids because there are nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavours on the American market and there is no way for anyone to know what chemicals are contained in the e-liquids or how the chemicals are going to affect one’s health over time. Most of the e-liquid refills sold in Malaysia do not stipulate the chemicals used and e-liquids are also produced locally as the concoctions are relatively easy to prepare.
Studies in the US showed that e-cigarette’s aerosol also contain carcinogens such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde and heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and lead. Some products that claim to be nicotine-free still may contain the drug. According to tests conducted in 2014 by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the amount of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes of the same brand and strength showed little consistency.
The main ingredient in e-liquids is propylene glycol which has been touted as GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). But conveniently ignoring the fact that the USA-based Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) clarified that “we have little information about what happens to propylene glycol in the air”. The GRAS status granted by FDA was in fact for “use in flavourings, drugs, and cosmetics, and as a direct food additive”.
Similarly, e-liquid flavours that use food ingredients are said to be safe. However, such claims are misleading because even the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States (FEMA) distanced itself from e-cigarettes, stating: “FEMA GRASTM status for the use of flavor ingredients in food does not mean that FEMA GRASTM flavor ingredients are safe for use in e-cigarettes”.
If the government is serious about public health CAP reiterates its calls for a complete ban on e-cigarettes and vaping because they are unsafe and, particularly the e-liquids which are difficult to regulate.
Press statement, 28 March 2016