KUALA LUMPUR: A government proposal currently under consideration to exclude liquid or gel nicotine from the list of controlled substances under the Poisons Act 1952, should not proceed as it contravenes public health priorities, said non-party think tank, Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib, adding that the very consideration is “a shocking development”.

“On Jan 25, we issued a statement stating that as it is, vape in Malaysia remains unregulated, unrestricted, and out of control. Some 4.9% of the population currently vape and this number is rising by the day.

“While there continues to be less than 2% of smokers, who are young women, they now make up more than 30% of those who vape. The estimated number of new vapers has also overtaken the number of new smokers.”

Azrul said as of today, vape is unregulated, and in the absence of the proposed Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, there is a massive gap in existing legislation on the marketing and sale of products containing nicotine, specifically vape and e-cigarettes, and this is a danger to the health and wellbeing of Malaysians.

“Removing nicotine from the scheduled list of controlled substances, while having no regulatory replacement will negate any attempt to control the nicotine content of these products.

“Cheap vape disposables containing high concentrations of liquid nicotine will flood the market.”

He stressed that the nicotine content of vape products in the country is among the highest in the world and that a person will usually inhale between 1mg and 3mg of nicotine from a single cigarette.

“Having 16mg per ml of nicotine is approximately 1.6% nicotine. In the UK, Europe, the US and Indonesia, where vape is regulated and taxed, the maximum strength permitted is only 20mg or 2%.

“However, in Malaysia, vape liquids in a single disposable are available in 3%-5% concentrations. Vape disposables with 5% nicotine are easily available in this country for between RM10 and RM20.

“You cannot get these in most countries which regulate and tax vape. Removing nicotine from the scheduled list will exacerbate the problem of nicotine addiction in Malaysia.”

Azrul said vape and e-cigarettes are part of the nicotine addiction problem. Vapers find that though they may have stopped smoking cigarettes, their addiction has transferred to e-cigarettes and vape.

“Some will be dual users, where they smoke both tobacco and e-cigarettes. Stop smoking clinics are already seeing patients who are both smoking cigarettes and vaping.

“The age of those becoming addicted to nicotine through vape is also getting younger. Children as young as 10 are becoming addicted to nicotine.”

Azrul said the solution to overcoming opposition and controversy presented by the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill should not be to remove nicotine altogether from being regulated under this legislation.

“It does not make sense and is against public health priorities.

“If the government is serious about regulating and taxing vape and e-cigarettes, it should drop this proposal and look instead to tabling and passing a revised version of the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill.”