MMA dissatisfied with Health Ministry's explanation on nicotine exemption from Poisons Act


  • Letters
  • Friday, 07 Apr 2023

HEALTH MINISTER Dr Zaliha Mustafa in a meeting held with MMA yesterday explained that the government's recent move to exempt nicotine from the Poisons Act was for the purpose of the government going ahead with its plans to tax vape liquids from April 1, 2023.

The meeting was attended by MMA exco members, heads of the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS), National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) as well as officials from the Health Ministry.

During the meeting, the Health Minister admitted that it is not the ideal scenario given that the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 has not yet been passed. Dr Zaliha said that it was with a "heavy heart" that she had signed off on the exemption of nicotine from the Poisons Act that will allow vape liquids including liquids containing nicotine, to be taxed.

Last Sunday, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) along with the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC), National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) and the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) had postponed, at the request of the Health Ministry, a (Monday, April 3) joint press conference on the issue to allow for a meeting to be held with MMA first. At the meeting held on Thursday, April 6), the Health Minister gave an explanation on the matter and discussed other issues affecting the public health care system.

The MMA, out of respect for the Health Ministry's wishes, postponed its press conference to allow room for the ministry to explain its stand on the matter. We have heard the ministry's explanation and still do not find the reasons given acceptable.

The government could have waited just one or two more months for the Control of Smoking and Tobacco Products Bill 2022 to be tabled and passed first before proceeding with the exemption of nicotine from the Poisons Act. Health concerns must come first above all.

Removing nicotine from the list of controlled substances under the Poisons Act now allows any vape – both containing nicotine and non-nicotine – to be sold openly and legally to anyone including children of any age. Nicotine is a dangerous, highly addictive substance.

It is no use crying over spilt milk now. The horse has bolted, but the Government must be accountable for this decision and show that it is committed to the Generational End Game (GEG) which seeks to prohibit the sale and use of any form of smoking material, including electronic cigarettes or vape products, to individuals born on Jan 1, 2007, onwards.

There have been various government anti cigarette smoking campaigns over the years. It is time the Health Ministry shows that it is equally committed to eradicating vape addiction with nationwide anti-vaping campaigns through the mass media, social media and at the community level. There is scientific evidence already available on the harmful effect of vaping on health. The MMA will support the Government in these efforts.

If we are late to address the issue of growing vape addiction in the country, all the tax revenue collected from the vape industry might not even be enough to pay for the medical costs to treat health issues caused by vape addiction.

Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai,

President,

Malaysian Medical Association

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