It is a norm that whenever the tabling of the National Budget is around the corner, tobacco companies will actively promote their agenda, this time featuring the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices (EVCs). The claim by the promoters of vaping that EVC helps them to quit tobacco smoking is baseless.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) wants to reiterate what it has been claiming that e-cigarettes and vaping devices (EVCs) are not a “safer alternative” to smoking traditional tobacco-based products or for use in smoking cessation. They are all injurious to health. Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration found that the scientific evidences do not justify EVCs use as smoking cessation tools.
There are compelling reasons for the government to completely ban EVCs and not regulate using legislation.
In the first instance e-liquids come under two broad categories: nicotine-based, and flavoured (e.g. vanilla, chocolate, and peppermint) e-liquids. They are often promoted by EVC manufacturers that their e-liquids are produced from ‘food grade’ and ‘generally recognized as safe (GRAS)’ ingredients.
But this is contradicted by the Flavor Extracts Manufacturers Association (FEMA) which announced in September 2016: “The manufacturers and marketers of ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Device System), and all other flavored tobacco products, and flavor manufacturers and marketers, should not represent or suggest that the flavor ingredients used in these products are safe because they have FEMA GRASTM status for use in food because such statements are false and misleading.”
We have explained previously that neither one is safe. Nicotine-based e-liquids are highly addictive and toxic. As a matter of fact, higher nicotine amounts can be inhaled through vaping and eventually increase its dependency. On the other hand, a 2015 study showed 76.5% of flavoured e-liquids contained a chemical diacetyl which is linked to a permanent and debilitating lung disorder, bronchiolitis obliterans (also known as ‘popcorn lungs’).
In the comprehensive 298-page report E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2016, it stated: “The health effects and potentially harmful doses of heated and aerosolized constituents of e-cigarette liquids, including solvents, flavorants, and toxicants, are not completely understood.” We should adopt the precautionary principle to ban it unless it is proven by those promoting it as safe.
Flavoured e-liquids entice youths to vaping and a means to try either nicotine-based e-liquids or initiate them into smoking. A 2016 report Tobacco & E-cigarette Survey Among Malaysian Adolescents showed that the highest prevalence of current EVC users aged between 16 and 19 years-old and the youngest age group was 12 years or younger.
More importantly, it would be an insurmountable task for law enforcers to monitor and identify which of the vapers are using illegal e-liquids such as those containing high levels of nicotine. People in the U.S. are using tetrahydrocannabinol-containing products in their vape. Tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive component of the marijuana plant. A 2017 study conducted in Malaysia revealed that 54% of these vapers interviewed obtained their zero nicotine e-liquid from the black market; 30% obtained home-made e-liquid.
Legislating and imposing conditions on e-liquids will open the flood gates for the multi-billion Ringgit black market to thrive as their sale is too lucrative to ignore. One report stated that there were 7,764 unique flavours available online in January 2014 with 242 new flavours were being added monthly.
Given our failure to control tobacco products use with legislation, the government should ban vaping outright rather than regulating it. There should not be any discussion with industry players as it is akin to letting a fox to guard the chicken coop.
We want to register our objection to the Malaysian Vape Chamber of Commerce (MVCC)’s proposal to the government to lift the ban on nicotine-based e-liquid and instead cap the amount of nicotine present in it. The reason is that it is impossible to monitor the amount of nicotine in every brand of e-liquid in the market, particularly those that are already filled into the vaping device by vapers.
If governments are not able to solve the smoking problem for the past seven decades, we do not see how they can allow EVCs to be marketed then try to curb like they do with tobacco control measures. There are an estimated 1 million vapers in the country and about 10% of whom are minors. Vaping has become a bane and for MVCC’s attempt to profit from nicotine addiction which could lead to lung disorders of its customers is highly unethical.
Press Statement, 9 October 2019