Call for more action to address vaping in schools

As advocates maintain their calls for nicotine and vape liquid to be relisted under the Health Ministry’s Poisons List, they are also urging for more action to address vaping in schools.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said vaping should be treated similarly to smoking cigarettes in schools.

“It is a surprise that although vaping has been in our midst for many years now, there is yet to be any concrete disciplinary action against those vaping in schools.

“Where the Education Ministry is slow in giving firm guidelines and punishment, the affected schools should have adequate autonomy to proceed with reprimanding students,” she said in an interview.

Stressing on the need for nicotine to be parked back under the Poisons List, students caught vaping in schools, said Noor Azimah, should be penalised with strict community service and their parents punished as well.

“At a higher level, vape shops should be prevented from selling vaping devices and its liquids to those under 18 or face the wrath of the law. The debate on whether vaping or smoking is better or worse should stop because neither is good for health. In fact, it can even be fatal,” she stressed.

Various groups, including the Malaysian Medical Association, had been calling for nicotine and vape liquids to be relisted under the Poisons Act immediately. This comes as the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill, which has the “generational end-game” among its provisions, gets delayed in Parliament to make way for government affairs.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa had told Parliament that the exemption of liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons List was the government’s “due process” to enable the taxation of ecigarette and vape liquids with nicotine.

Echoing the call, Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said vaping was an ongoing problem that needed to be addressed, especially when it involved children.

With the current lack of laws to regulate vape and its liquid, Amrahi said the responsibility now lay with the parents and teachers to monitor the children.

“This matter needs a whole of government effort as even under the current laws, there are loopholes allowing vape devices and liquids to be sold freely in the market and people can abuse this by putting in illegal substances.

“This is not a matter solely for the Health Ministry to address. It must be a collaborative effort along with the Education Ministry, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, the Local Government Development Ministry and the ministry in charge of the law to eradicate this problem.

“But until then, we need to take care of ourselves until those in power decide to enact laws to regulate the vape,” he said.

The ministers, Amrahi claimed, had failed to perform their duties in protecting the people against the hazards of vaping.

“We have fought against this (vaping) since 2015 as anything that harms the lungs should be regulated,” he said.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer N. V. Subbarow said there had been a rise in the number of cases of students caught vaping in schools.

Subbarow said according to teachers, the number of students caught using vape or ecigarettes had increased from 10% to 50%.

“Previously, the schools used to catch 10 students vaping within the compound and now, this has reached over 100 students. Out of the 100, 29 are female.

“While there are fewer cigarette smoking incidents, the number of vaping students is significantly higher.

“Random spot checks by teachers on school bags also found more vaping devices,” he said, adding that it was critical for the government to implement the Bill, which will regulate vape and its contents.

“However, any decision by the government, for example, in implementing the generational endgame (GEG) Bill must consider the views of the teachers handling the matter personally.

“Those students found vaping also tend to exhibit other disciplinary behavior, such as not doing their homework or lying to their parents for money to buy vape,” he said.

Source: The Star (20 November 2023)