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Ministry to regulate e-cigarettes

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Health Ministry will not allow the unregulated use of e-cigarettes, including vaping devices.

Despite the ministry’s failure to get the cabinet’s nod to ban vaping, a trend already picked up by about one million users, it is aggressively working to put in place stringent regulations to keep its use in check.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam told the New Straits Times that as he and the healthcare community were deeply concerned about the rapid increase in the number of people taking up vaping, he was looking into tangible action that could, among others, prevent hazardous contents from making their way into vaping liquids.

The ministry, he said, was also looking at applying the same set of rules regulating the use of tobacco products to e-cigarettes.

This would mean that the use and sale of vaping devices and accompanying items would be off limits to those under the age of 18.

Dr Subramaniam said the ministry was duty-bound to ensure the substances used in the liquid were not hazardous to users.

The ministry had registered its concerns of possible long-term consequences of inhaling vapours containing nicotine, formaldehyde and propylene glycol.

He also told the NST that in regulating vaping devices, including e-liquid that contains nicotine, the existing Poisons Act 1952 (Revised 1989) would likely come into play.

Under the act, nicotine is underlined under “category C poison”, meaning anything that contained the substance could only be sold and supplied as dispensed medicine or an ingredient in dispensed medicine by licensed practitioners.

Nicotine in tobacco is exempted from the act, as tobacco control is regulated under the Food Act 1983.

As the ministry moves to regulate e-cigarettes in ways similar to how the sale of tobacco products is governed, its promotion could also be restricted.

Under plans to regulate the use of e-cigarettes, the ministry is looking at keeping certain public areas off limits to vapers.

The NST learned that the ministry would convene a meeting on Monday to detail plans to regulate the use of vaping devices.

It is also understood that health experts with the ministry are studying possible cancer-causing agents in e-liquids, including propylene glycol.

If heated for a prolonged period at five volts or higher, propylene glycol could be converted into harmful substances such as formaldehyde.

The debate on the use of vaping devices gained momentum over the last few days as the ministry made it clear it would ban vaping.

It had announced on Wednesday that it was looking at laws to ban e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

Yesterday, many in the vaping community rejoiced when Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob posted on his Facebook account that the cabinet had decided against banning e-cigarettes and vaping.

Dr Subramaniam, in a statement, said he had expressed “his deep concern about the steep increase in the number of people vaping in Malaysia and its possible long-term consequences”.

The cabinet, he said, fully recognised the adverse health effects of cigarette smoking and vaping, and the need for greater public health education on the harmful effects of vaping, as well as the need to stringently regulate it.

The ministry, he said, would immediately work on the two matters.

He said safeguarding public health and regulating vaping, as well as the advent of further evidence of the hazards of vaping, would be the deciding factors of whether it would be banned in the future.

More Malaysians have, in recent years, picked up vaping, some as a new habit while others, dependent on the device, to aid cessation of cigarette smoking.

The device, which atomises the e-liquid, is often doctored with additional additives, such as flavourings and colourings.

Those containing nicotine come with various levels of concentration.

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