MORE AND MORE MALAYSIAN TEENAGERS ARE INTO VAPING

According to data made available in this newspaper by the School of Medical and Life Sciences of Sunway University on Friday, 14.9 per cent of teenagers are into vaping, a staggering growth from 9.8 per cent in 2017.

MORE and more Malaysian teenagers — students being a growing number of them — are turning to vaping without realising the dangers posed by the electronic cigarettes to their lungs and respiratory system.

According to data made available in this newspaper by the School of Medical and Life Sciences of Sunway University on Friday, 14.9 per cent of teenagers are into vaping, a staggering growth from 9.8 per cent in 2017.

Yet, our Health Ministry is not stirred up. It wasn’t, too, when the medical community and non-governmental organisations highlighted its inadvertence in delisting nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 on April 1.

Revenue from taxes on nicotine-based products seems to have been the motivation. We shall not say more as there is a judicial review pending on the liquid nicotine delisting. Here is why the Health Ministry, and the government generally, should be stirred up.

We do not know how many e-cigarette brands there are in the country, but they are a part of a RM3 billion vaping empire.

In a letter written to this newspaper, Sunway University disclosed that it had analysed 10 vape liquid brands and found that 70 per cent of them contained higher amounts of propylene glycol than what their labels stated.

What’s worse, 80 per cent of the tested samples had traces of ammonia, a chemical present in products such as fertilisers, hair dyes and plastics. One clear indication that our regulators are not doing their job.

Medical professionals say prolonged exposure to such harmful chemicals will cause lung-related diseases, such as popcorn lungs and cancer, and even death.

There has been no record of vaping-related deaths in Malaysia, but in the United States, 12 of such deaths were reported in 2019. This will only grow as legal and illegal brands compete for a share of the global vape empire that is estimated to be US$182.84 billion by 2030, according to Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway company.

Malaysia, too, is providing easy access to illegal and legal e-cigarette brands. Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy says in its website that at least 90 per cent of the Malaysian market is nicotine-based vape, mostly illicit and imported from China.

There is a peculiar argument being peddled by some (one wonders if the e-cigarette industry is behind it): vaping is less harmful than smoking. This is nonsense on stilts. True, nicotine is the devil in the two.

Vaping has more. It has glycol and glycerine and some more, like lead and nickel, to give a momentary throat and lung high until they are damaged beyond repair. The morning after vaping story is one of pain, never pleasure. Always.

The Health Ministry and other regulators must read these danger signals and do something about it before it is too late. What exactly can the Health Ministry do?

Firstly, put liquid nicotine back in the Poisons Act. Secondly, ban disposable vapes, a product that seems to have been designed to get schoolchildren hooked on vaping. This is one reason why vaping has grown to nearly 15 per cent among Malaysian teenagers.

Next, do what China is doing: make flavoured vapes illegal. Finally, revisit tobacco control laws. Malaysia cannot afford not to have it. Tobacco and vape must have an endgame. Otherwise, it would mean an end for a healthy Malaysia.

Source: “Of Vaping and Popcorn Lungs”, NST Leader (20 August 2023)