Regulate instead of ban, say vape groups

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Countries worldwide have taken a hard line against vaping ostensibly because its health risks are unknown while simultaneously allowing the continued sale of tobacco products that have long been proven to be harmful. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 — Two advocacy groups have rejected a proposed blanket ban on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and vaping, saying regulations and enforcement should be the appropriate response to lingering health concerns.

Malaysian Vape Chamber of Commerce (MVCC) and Malaysian E-Vaporizers and Tobacco Alternative Association (Mevta) both disagreed with the call from a coalition of 47 NGOs, with the former saying that prohibition would likely fuel abuse especially among minors.

“We note that the NGOs are concerned with the use of vape among those below 18 years old and the recent cases in the US where the products have been abused through drug use.

“This is exactly why regulations have to be introduced to ensure there are controls to prevent children from having access to the products and that the products are regulated with standards to ensure no harmful substances such as drugs can be used,” MVCC president Syed Azaudin Syed Ahmad told Malay Mail.

Mevta secretary-general II Zain Azrul told Malay Mail the industry has been hampered by a lack of guidelines and regulations.

Banning vapes could force the industry underground and making it even more difficult to monitor and police.

“Urging for vapes to be banned is not the best solution because the government has already announced the formation of a special executive committee to regulate the new vape laws,” he said.

The coalition of citizen groups previously urged authorities to impose a blanket ban on the grounds that this would be simpler and cheaper than regulating vaping products.

Members of the coalition of NGOs seeking a blanket ban on e-cigarettes and vaping devices pose for pictures at a press conference. — Picture courtesy of Smoke Free Malaysia Initiative

Despite the development of vaping as a smoking cessation aid, the groups claimed it was instead encouraging smoking.

They also claimed that vapes were being used to inhale narcotics and said a ban would prevent it from growing to the size of the tobacco industry.

Mevta echoed the groups’ concerns about the difficulty in regulating the online sales of vaping products and said these should be sold exclusively in physical stores.

MVCC’s Syed Azaudin also stressed that a ban would adversely affect more than 5,000 vaping businesses that purportedly employ 25,000 people and serve a market of 1.2 million users daily.

“A ban on vaping will impact the industry and the livelihoods of the industry workers.

“On top of that, Malaysian vapers will be forced to access the products illegally and consumers have the right to access regulated products,” he said.

Syed Azaudin also said the NGOs calling for a ban on vaping were ignoring medical evidence that showed cigarettes to be more harmful than vaping.

He said the groups were clearly ignoring independent reports and studies released by UK centres such as Cancer Research, Action on Smoking and Health, UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies, Royal College of Physicians, and the British Medical Association, who acknowledged that vape is less harmful of the two.

“Even (the) UK, Canada, and New Zealand health authorities have also stated the same, encouraging cigarette smokers to switch to vaping which is proven to be a less harmful alternative,” he said.

Countries worldwide have taken a hard line against vaping ostensibly because its health risks are unknown while simultaneously allowing the continued sale of tobacco products that have long been proven to be harmful.

In 2015, Public Health England concluded after studies done with Cancer Research UK that vaping was “95 per cent safer than smoking.”

Vaping-related deaths in the US this year have renewed concerns over the activity, but the incidents so far have been isolated to illicit marijuana vaping products containing a compound called tocopherol acetate.

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