Delisting nicotine could put kids at risk of addiction, say groups

PETALING JAYA: Removing liquid and gel nicotine from under the control of the Poisons Act 1952 puts children at risk of addiction, says Voice of the Children (VOC) chairman Sharmila Sekaran.

With no safeguards to stop the sale of vapes and ecigarettes, she fears young children being addicted to these products.

“There are sufficient research highlighting the adverse effects of using these products and how it relates to health issues, and what more for young children.

“What’s next after they get addicted? Has the Health Ministry thought about these children’s progression to other forms of substances later on?

“Children may not know how something is harmful and are vulnerable. That is why we adults have to protect them,” Sharmila said.

VOC, along with the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) and the Malaysian Green Lung Association, have filed a legal challenge over the Health Ministry’s decision to remove nicotine from the list of controlled substances under the Poisons Act 1952.

Malaysian Green Lung Association president Ho Rhu Yann said it was puzzling why the Health Minister hurried to delist liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 when there were no other regulations in place to recategorise them.

“This opens up opportunities for irresponsible retailers to sell and promote the products openly, which is already happening.

“We don’t want another substance to prey on our children and teenagers,” he said.

He said the association, along with other anti-smoking groups, had repeatedly voiced their concerns through the media, calling for the Health Ministry to reverse this decision.

However, it had fallen on deaf ears.

“There is a void in the regulations and this poses a grave danger to public health,” he said.

MCTC secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said the government’s rationale behind the move, which is to impose an excise tax on liquid or gel nicotine-containing products, did not prioritise public health.

He said the government should increase taxes on cigarettes, which have not been raised since 2015, and pressure the agencies in charge of curbing the smuggling of tobacco products, if it wanted to increase revenue.

“We had to take it to court as we will not compromise the lives of our children,” he said.

The Health Ministry could not be reached for comment.

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