GEORGE TOWN: Vape products in all shapes and sizes have been flooding the market, including those targeting schoolchildren.
Besides vape pens and chocolates, the latest is the vape smart watch.
The gadget, which has a strap and detachable watch, is being sold openly in shops for RM132 each.
“These watches can cost less than RM130 and some students are using pooled money to buy and share them.
“They also pay RM50 for a 30ml bottle of liquid nicotine, ” said Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer N.V. Subbarow.
He said recently, teachers in two schools in the state seized vape gadgets from students, showing a disturbing trend of students vaping.
“They look like regular smart watches and teachers may not easily identify them. The liquid is poured into the detachable watch face unit, and the vaping device is shared among the students.
“One can easily lay their hands on the China-made product as they seem to be used by schoolchildren. This could lead to serious health issues.
“The government may have banned cigarettes in schools or public places, but the law still allows e-cigarettes. Sadly, many unscrupulous traders are promoting these products as gifts, ” he said in an interview.
Subbarow also claimed that a preschool teacher confiscated a “cigarette pad” from a five-year-old recently.
“When you roll each page torn off from the small note pad, it looks like a cigarette. This seems to be a plaything among the children.
“There is like a pattern now where smoking is being promoted at an early age, which would have disastrous effects on a growing child. There are no laws stopping profiteering from these gadgets, ” he said.
Subbarow added that students often got away with vaping, compared to smoking cigarettes because they come in many flavours and are water-based, without emanating much smoke or smell.
“The fruity flavours of apple, orange or strawberry cause the vapers to have fresh breath, making it difficult for teachers and parents to know if their children are vaping, ” he said.
When met, two 16-year-olds from a school in Jelutong, who were vaping near the CAP office at Jalan Masjid Negeri, said they bought an e-cigarette for RM100 and liquid nicotine for RM50 and that they smoked outside the school.
One of them said he had borrowed money from another friend and it was nothing new as many peers in his school have e-cigarettes.He said they would also meet after school for vaping sessions.
Subbarow cautioned that thousands have died from lung infections and other diseases due to smoking, which is higher than those who were killed in accidents.
“Our checks in about eight schools showed that the situation is critical. Prompt action must be taken to address the issue, including amending the laws to ban vaping in public places.
“The anti-vape campaign started five years ago when vaping was a hot issue but it soon fizzled out as the Health Ministry did not follow through, ” he said.
“It’s time for drastic action or we’ll lose an entire generation, who will end up becoming vaping addicts.”