INDUSTRY participants want a crackdown on vapers who abuse drugs because it’s threatening the country’s half-a-billion-ringgit e-cigarette market.
Industry pioneer and Malaysia E-Vaporizers & Tobacco Alternative Association president Allen Foo warns that if left unchecked, drugs could kill the still-growing industry.
On July 27, Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff announced the formation of a task force to probe the sale and use of ganja-flavoured juices, or e-liquid, in e-cigarettes.
While welcoming stricter enforcement, Foo, however, insists that these juices are “not the real thing”. It’s merely a chemical flavouring that doesn’t give the user a “high”, he claims.
As it’s 10 times more expensive to make juices from real ganja extract compared with smoking it the conventional way, no one would bother making real ganja juices for vaping, he explains.
“Nonetheless, we want action against these ganja-flavoured juices.”
Nick Chong, the owner of Malaysian vaping guide website Vaped.my, agrees, saying it’s good to nab those responsible for spoiling the vaping scene.
Ibrahim Mohamed, co-organiser of inaugural Vaporizer Convention Kuala Lumpur 2015 held in April, is shocked that vapers here are using the devices for drugs.
There are at least 1,000 vape shops nationwide and over 400 local electronic vaporiser device and e-liquid brands, he estimates.
He admits that in 2013, there was a local seller making ganja juices in the Klang Valley but believes that the man has since stopped.
“As soon as we knew about it, we went and talked to him. We explained how he was giving the vape industry here a bad name. He listened.
“If the juice contains ‘other stuff’, there will be a funny taste and residue. So far, we haven’t detected that in juices sold locally.”
He says the convention organisers want to assist the police in preventing the misuse of drugs because “we care for our vaping community”.
Aimran Abdul Rajak, partner at Vape Empire, the country’s largest vape distributor and retail chain, points to how addicts “will use anything” to abuse drugs.
Drugs are the problem; cracking down on vaping will not solve the drug issue, he argues.
“People have been using rolled paper, plastic bottles, aluminium foil, and many other items as drug paraphernalia for years. So why not crack down on those?”
While many juices are made up merely of flavouring plus nicotine and propylene glycol, Universiti Malaya associate professor, consultant psychiatrist, and nicotine addiction specialist, Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin calls for some sort of regulation to be introduced urgently.
He says more research into vaping, including the possibility of using e-cigs to abuse drugs, is needed.
On July 12, a group of drug users undergoing rehabilitation at the 1Malaysia Cure & Care Clinic in Sungai Besi shared with Sunday Star their experience of vaping drugs like ice, syabu, and pil kuda – street names for methamphetamine and synthetic cannabis.
In an immediate response, the National Anti-drugs Agency deputy director-general (operation) Izhar Abu Talib had warned that vapers who behave suspiciously would be subjected to random urine tests.
The expose came barely two weeks after Sunday Star’s front page about the unregulated vape industry here. Worth half-a-billion-ringgit, it’s the second largest in the world after the American market, industry players estimate, while calling for it to be regulated.