Addiction to E-cigarettes among youth: Health Ministry must impose total ban


CAP is appalled with the finding that the use of e-cigarettes is becoming popular among the youths in Malaysia.

It is even more appalling that e-cigarettes are widely used by students.  This was revealed by a teacher from a secondary school in Penang who caught his students smoking e-cigarette.  The teacher handed over the e-cigarette to CAP and informed that approximately 60 students in his school smoke e-cigarettes.

Electronic cigarette was first introduced in the Chinese domestic market in May 2004. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that use a liquid-filled cartridge that contains mint, vanilla, cherry, coffee bean and a host of other flavourings. They also come in flavors that children like such as chocolate, strawberry and caramel. The user places the e-cigarette between his lips and sucks in. This action activates a heating element that immediately vaporizes a liquid solution. This vapor is then inhaled.

The label of e-cigarette says that nicotine content in it is 3.6% from the total 10 ml liquid contents. Hence it is ironic that some websites promoting e-cigarettes as solution for nicotine addiction. Besides that it contains many other dangerous chemicals.

E-cigarettes are being marketed as effective smoking cessation device and sold for RM 50 to RM 90. The liquid filled bottle is sold from RM 10 to RM 20. E-cigarettes are easily available in gift shops.  There are shops specifically selling e-cigarettes.

A conversation with a seller revealed that more youths are buying e-cigarettes including women. Women like it because it has less social stigma attached to it than the real cigarette. According to the seller, the more expensive the liquid the higher the content of the nicotine. In the case of normal cigarette each cigarette has to be lit, which may at times prevent one from puffing on the second one.  But in the case of e-cigarette there are high chances of continuously smoking till the last drop of the liquid.

While there is age restriction for the sale of real cigarettes, there is no age limit for buying e-cigarettes. This could lead more children and youth into buying and using e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are being promoted as healthy alternative to tobacco smoking.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not consider it to be legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit.  According to WHO, electronic cigarette is not a proven nicotine replacement therapy.

According to scientists from the University of Athens, Greece, e-cigarettes causes damage to the lung.  Nicotine on its own is an extremely toxic poison similar to pesticides. When taken too much, it can lead to nicotine poisoning, which causes vomiting and nausea and headaches.

A small study presented at the European Respiratory Society’s annual meeting in February 2012 showed that e-cigarette smoking could have negative effects on people with coronary artery disease who have plaques in their arteries, because it lowers blood oxygen levels after 10 minutes of using e-cigarette.  In May 2009 The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) tested 19 varieties of electronic cigarette cartridges and detected cancer causing agents in them.

E-cigarettes are currently banned in Brazil, Norway, Colombia, Panama, Singapore and Uruguay. France plans to prohibit use of e-cigarettes in public venues.

Malaysia has a smoking prevalence of 23.1% among adults and an extremely high smoking prevalence of 30.9% among boys aged 13.  Everyday 50 teenagers below the age of 18 start smoking in Malaysia.

From a survey done by CAP, it is very clear that this e-cigarette is very appealing to youth and may create nicotine addiction among them. It also frees the user from the hassle of buying cigarettes which means chances of addiction are higher than the real cigarette.

While there is age restriction for the sale of real cigarettes, there is no age limit for buying e-cigarettes. This could lead into more children and youth buying and using e-cigarettes. Most of the sales are online and within easy reach of minors. Hence parents should monitor their children to prevent e-cigarette addiction among them.

There is a need to impose total ban on the sale of e-cigarettes as it may entice more youths into trying and getting hooked to them. Hence CAP urges Ministry of Health to ban the sale and use of e-cigarettes. Meanwhile CAP also urges the public to refrain from using e-cigarettes.

Press Statement, 24 June, 2013