300,000 students in Malaysia use e-cigarretes because they want to try something new, drawn by the taste and smell and think the products are a healthier option: Health DG

PETALING JAYA: The misconception that e-cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes is among the factors youths are vaping, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told theSun.

In February, Health Ministry Tobacco Control Sector head Dr Nor Aryana Hassan said 9.1% or 300,000 students in Malaysia are using e-cigarettes.

“A total of 40.9% vape once a day while 33.9% vape two to five times a day.”

Noor Hisham said the majority of teens use e-cigarettes because they want to try something new, are attracted to the taste and smell of the flavours in e-cigarette liquid and have the misbelief that the products are safer than conventional cigarettes.

“There is evidence that e-cigarettes used among adolescents is associated with cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug use, indicating that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to using other substances.

Noor Hisham said smoking and vaping have side effects and risks to human health, while the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes are still not fully understood. Yet, a growing number of studies have shown that vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking.

He said Malaysians should quit smoking and vaping immediately if they want to maintain good health.

“Both are equally bad and may cause serious health and respiratory problems,” he added.

Meanwhile, a survey by theSun showed that many brands of vaping products have few health warnings, apart from nicotine being an addictive substance.

K. Krishnamoorthy, 22, said he switched from smoking to vaping because it is cheaper than cigarettes in the long term, and he felt it was safer for his health.

“It is also less offensive to non-smokers as vaping products generally smell nice. Even the mamak restaurants don’t stop us from vaping during late evenings and at night since there is no enforcement then,” he said.

A parent, who provided her name only as Evelyn, 46, said the colourful packaging of e-cigarette products made vaping attractive to teenagers.

“I caught my son having a vaping product in his bedroom. When questioned, he said unlike cigarettes, vaping is healthier as it only contained nicotine and not other chemicals.

“Of course, this is ridiculous. All smoking products are dangerous to health and contain various health-threatening chemicals. I am surprised my son believed otherwise. We come from an educated family, and if he can be deceived, imagine those from less educated families.”

Noor Hisham reiterated that it was best to quit smoking and vaping altogether.