Experts: ‘Energy sticks’ may pose health risks

PETALING JAYA: “Energy sticks” sold online could contain ingredients similar to vape, cautioned health experts.

They say these “nasal inhalers” which are marketed to boost energy could be addictive and hazardous to health.“The device is in the form of an inhaler and the substance goes directly into the respiratory system,” pointed out Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang.

“It contains food flavouring and glycerin among other chemical substances,” he said.

These energy sticks could also be the “gateway” to developing smoking or vaping habits among children and teenagers, he said.

ALSO READ: ‘Energy sticks’ spark fears

“The only difference (between energy sticks and vape) is that it does not involve combustion,” he added.

Amrahi said inhalers sold at pharmacies for medicinal purposes are different from these energy sticks which are being sold online, mainly through social media platforms.

He said such inhalers are registered with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency while “energy sticks” are not.

Amrahi also urged ecommerce platforms to promptly take down any advertisements of the products, calling on them to be responsible and self-police.

ALSO READ: Health Ministry to take action on ‘energy sticks’ sold online

“We expect the platform to be responsible. But I know this is the digital world where some stuff is hard to control so the authorities too need to look into using existing laws to curb the matter,” he added.

He also urged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to play its role in monitoring the advertisements on social media that are targeting the product specifically at children.

“A whole-of-society and government approach is required, we have seen the Health Ministry and Education Ministry coming out together to address the matter. I expect other relevant authorities to also play their roles, including the MCMC,” he said.

Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, a health economics and public health specialist with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said it is irresponsible of sellers to mislead the public with unproven claims that energy sticks can cure sinus problems and fatigue as well as reduce drowsiness.

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“There are substances such as propylene glycol which are used in vape. There are other unknown substances which could cause issues and bacterial infection in the lungs and contamination from foreign substances. They could also lead to addiction,” she said.

As there are no quality checks done on these products, Prof Sharifa said consumers will be using them at their own risk.

One of the substances said to be found in these sticks is terpenes, a class of products widely used as fragrances and flavours in products such as perfumes, cosmetics and cleaning aids, as well as food and drink products, she said.

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“It can cause allergies but generally, more studies are needed. Terpenes, when mixed with cannabis, alter the way cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, interact with the brain,” she said.

As these energy sticks could be toxic, children should not be exposed to them from a young age, she said.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan said on Feb 8 that the Health Ministry will act on complaints from the public about these energy sticks, a vape-like nasal inhaler, being sold online.

For a start, he said advertisements for the products – which have not been registered with the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency as required by the Sale of Drugs Act 1952 – will be taken down from popular ecommerce platforms.

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