Don’t regulate it, just ban it

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 10 Oct 2019

THE claim by the promoters of e-cigarettes and vaping devices (EVCs) that vaping can help traditional cigarette smokers quit tobacco smoking is baseless.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) wants to reiterate what it has been stating from the beginning, that EVCs are not a “safer alternative” to smoking traditional tobacco-based products or for use in smoking cessation. They are all injurious to health. And contrary to popular belief, the US Food and Drugs Administration found that scientific evidence does not justify using EVCs as smoking cessation tools.

There are compelling reasons for the government to completely ban EVCs and not just regulate them using legislation.

In the first instance, e-liquids come under two broad categories: nicotine-based and flavoured (eg, vanilla, chocolate, peppermint, etc). Manufacturers claim that e-liquids are produced from “food grade” and “generally recognised as safe (GRAS)” ingredients.

But this is contradicted by the Flavor Extracts Manufacturers Association (Fema), which announced in September 2016: “The manufacturers and marketers of ENDS (electronic nicotine device system), and all other flavored tobacco products, and flavor manufacturers and marketers, should not represent or suggest that the flavor ingredients used in these products are safe because they have Fema GRAS status for use in food because such statements are false and misleading.”

Again, CAP says, neither type of e-liquids is safe. Nicotine-based e-liquids are highly addictive and toxic. In fact, higher amounts of nicotine can be inhaled through vaping than through smoking a traditional cigarette, and this will eventually increase dependency.

And a 2015 study showed 76.5% of flavoured e-liquids contained the chemical diacetyl which is linked to the permanent and debilitating lung disorder bronchiolitis obliterans (also known as “popcorn lungs”).

The comprehensive 298-page report E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults by the

US Surgeon-General, in 2016, stated that: “The health effects and potentially harmful doses of heated and aerosolised constituents of e-

cigarette liquids, including solvents, flavorants, and toxicants, are not completely understood.” We should adopt the precautionary principle to ban them unless it is proven by those promoting them as safe.

Flavoured e-liquids entice youths to try vaping which can lead to them trying nicotine-based e-

liquids or moving onto smoking. The 2016 report, Tobacco & E-cigarette Survey Among Malaysian Adolescents showed that the highest prevalence of current EVC users are aged between 16 and 19 years old and the youngest age group is 12 years or younger.

More importantly, how can e-

liquids be regulated? It would be an insurmountable task for law enforcers to monitor and identify which of the vapers are using illegal e-liquids such as those containing high levels of nicotine. People in the United States are using tetrahydrocannabinol-containing products in their e-cigarettes. Tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive component of the marijuana plant.

A 2017 study conducted in Malaysia revealed that 54% of vapers interviewed obtained their zero nicotine e-liquid from the black market; 30% used home-made e-liquids.

Legislating and imposing conditions on e-liquids will open the floodgates for the multibillion

ringgit black market to thrive as their sale is too lucrative to ignore. One report stated that there were 7,764 unique flavours available online in January 2014 with 242 new flavours added monthly.

Given our failure to control tobacco product use with legislation, the government should ban vaping outright rather than regulating it.

We want to register our objection to the proposal by Malaysian Vape Chamber of Commerce (MVCC) to the government to lift the ban on nicotine-based e-liquid and instead cap the amount of nicotine present. The reason is that it is impossible to monitor the amount of nicotine in every brand of e-liquid in the market, particularly those that are already filled into the vaping device by vapers.

If the government has not been able to solve the smoking problem for the past seven decades, we do not see how it can allow EVCs to be marketed and then try to curb them like it does with tobacco control measures. There are an estimated one million vapers in the country, about 10% of whom are minors. Vaping has become a bane and must be banned rather than merely regulated.

MOHIDEEN ABDUL KADER ,President, Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP)

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