KL panel to study health impact of e-cigarettes

PETALING JAYA • Malaysia's Health Ministry has formed a special committee to study the health implications and other issues surrounding the vape industry, following a heated debate over a proposed ban on vaping and the unpopular raids by the ministry on e-cigarette stores nationwide last week.

Health Minister S. Subramaniam said the committee would be the point of reference over vaping issues to prevent conflicting statements emanating from other government departments, The Star newspaper reported yesterday.

The committee's formation came about after Dr Subramaniam said his ministry was considering legislation to control vaping last week, only to have Rural Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob saying the next day the Cabinet has agreed not to ban e-cigarettes.

But the day after Datuk Ismail's announcement, there were surprise raids on more than 300 vape stores, leading to protests from store owners and vape users.

A Health Ministry spokesman said the raids were carried out to monitor the nicotine content of vape liquids, and that some stores did not possess a valid licence to sell nicotine-based products.

The issue is also muddled by various views on whether using e-cigarettes helped to reduce smoking, or is in fact smoking by another name as nicotine is part of some of the vape liquids sold.

A subtext to the debate is the prevalence of Malay entrepreneurs who have invested tens of thousands of dollars to open vape stores, with many young Malays using e-cigarettes. The government is wary of upsetting its Malay vote bank.

The Health Ministry in August recommended a temporary halt to shisha and e-cigarette smoking until findings on the risks were announced. But this has been largely ignored.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'KL panel to study health impact of e-cigarettes'. Print Edition | Subscribe