The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance says children have been specially targeted through the use of cartoon characters with 16,000 flavours, and e-cigarettes that resemble toys and sweets.
About 30% of the e-cigarette smokers in Malaysia are aged between 12 and 15 years, according to a regional anti-tobacco organisation.
The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) said the e-cigarette use prevalence among this age group in Malaysia is higher than teen smoking prevalence, which is 12.5% (10.8% boys and 1.7% girls).
In contrast, the alliance said, the other countries in Asean, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand, have banned these products along with about 40 other countries globally.
Urging Malaysia to take similar steps to stop this alarming trend, the organisation said e-cigarettes with nicotine are highly addictive, and alarming evidence has emerged of adverse population health effects.
“The World Health Organization says e-cigarettes are being aggressively promoted to young people through social media and influencers.
“Children have been specially targeted through the use of cartoon characters, the availability of at least 16,000 flavours, and e-cigarettes that resemble toys, sweets, and school supplies,” it said in a statement today.
In the Asean region, it said, e-cigarette use prevalence in the Philippines among teens is 14.1%, while in Indonesia, 11.8% of students use e-cigarettes.
“While long-term health effects are not fully understood, it has been established that they generate toxic substances, some of which are carcinogenic, and others increase the risk of heart and lung disorders.
“Use of e-cigarettes can also affect brain development and lead to learning disorders for young people,” it said.
Seatco said these products are harmful and not effective for quitting tobacco use as claimed.
“Claims of harm reduction are unproven and deceptive. It is more accurate to say this is harm initiation for youths that have never smoked and harm substitution for smokers trying to quit,” it added.
Source: Free Malaysia Today (14 Dec 2023)