MALACCA • There are some 1,000 shops and outlets serving Malaysia's growing group of vapers, or users of electronic cigarette vaporisers, with more than 400 local brands and nicotine-infused liquids.
Users claim vaping helps them to quit smoking actual cigarettes, but the Malaysian Health Ministry said they often end up doing both.
Health Minister S. Subramaniam is now working to have vaping banned in Malaysia, or at least stringently regulated. E-cigarettes are banned in Singapore.
Datuk Seri Subramaniam said the ministry is studying the models used in countries that have banned it and those which had imposed strict rules, to adopt the best practices for legislation.
"We have not made a definite decision yet. The options we are considering range from very strict regulation to a total ban. We are looking at existing laws under the ministry and the laws of other ministries on the best approach to take," he said.
The ministry has been concerned about the growing trend of vaping among Malaysians, especially those below 18. With more than a million vapers, it has grown to be a RM500 million (S$162.7 million) industry. Malaysia has the biggest number of users in Asia and, worldwide, is second only to the United States, officials have said.
"We are now working out a few legal premises. We will choose the most appropriate Act that will give us the power to do it," he said. "If it were up to me, I will ban it as soon as possible. I feel we have to put a stop to this before it becomes a big issue."
Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was compiling results of studies on the health risks of vaping and its effects on passive vapers and other information.
He said regulations could also include barring the use of vapers in restaurants and other public areas.
A vaper and the co-owner of Vape Street, Mr Yazuan Yatim, said he sells RM2,000 (S$650) a day of various vape flavours and e-cigarettes since opening two months ago.
"My customers are mostly working adults and most are trying to stop smoking. They buy a few bottles and they can last them for a month," he said.
Said vaper Nancy Nais, 33, a corporate manager: "If they want to ban vaping because it is harmful, they should also ban cigarettes. They might as well legalise vaping and tax customers," she said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK