E-cig and vape traders ‘using students as agents’

Going to ground: Subbarow (left)speaking with vape users on the e-cigarette issue outside the CAP office in Jalan Masjid Negeri, Penang.

PETALING JAYA: There is a network supplying e-cigarettes and vape devices (ECV) to students, according to the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP).

It said there were students who were “sales agents” for the sellers.

CAP education officer N.V. Subbarow said he interviewed over 1,000 primary and secondary students on ECV and smoking, adding that he found students were forming groups of six to 10 and naming themselves after e-liquids.

These groups included young pupils, he said. “They meet at hypermarkets and supermarkets near the schools and collect money weekly to buy e-liquids.

“Some become sales agents in return for free e-liquids or discounts on the products,” he told The Star.

Subbarow claimed more girls were vaping due to the “fruity flavours”.

And the worrying trend is seen across all races. “They don’t understand that what they are doing is wrong. They think that because it’s fruity, it’s okay. They don’t even know what is nicotine.

“When I ask them how they started the habit, they say it is very common among girls,” he said, adding that ECV was a hot topic among girls whom CAP approached, although none of them were smokers.

“They have never touched a cigarette in their lives. Counselling girls is challenging because they say if boys and men smoke, why can’t girls vape?” he said, adding that the girls were mostly from lower income families.

More girls were also using ECV in schools, StarEdu reported on Sunday.

Universiti Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (Umcas), the varsity’s Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) and the National Union of the Teaching Profession had warned that more young girls were experimenting with ECV.

Cute cartoon packaging and fruity flavours are aimed at teens and female non-smokers, the addiction experts had said.

And while society still has a negative perception of women who smoke, with ECV, the message is that even ‘‘good girls’’ use it because it’s fashionable and can help you lose weight.

Subbarow said students get money from their grandparents or relatives when parents refuse to fund the habit.

“The more students I meet, the more worried I get. The stories I hear are frightening.

“If nothing is done, our youths will end up in rehabilitation centres five years from now.”

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam wants the Education Ministry to tackle vaping which has created “chaos” in the education system.

He said the popularity of ECV has wreaked havoc in schools.

Teachers are scared to take action because they say it’s outside the school compound, he said.

“We are successful because in the past, teachers took care of us.

“They would come to our house, talk to our parents and with their help, problems get solved,” he said, adding that addiction is a “national risk”.

He urged all parties to work together to help the ministry solve the problem.

“Teach students about the evils of smoking and vaping.

“Malaysia will fail if we don’t produce children who can successfully chart the country’s future .”

On July 21, the ministry said it would work closely with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to prevent the sale of ECV in schools.

“The sale of ECV to students is a serious matter. Parents are reminded to be vigilant,” it said in a statement.
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