The Reason Foundation think tank has asked for the government to consider increasing tobacco prices and regulating vaping as a means to dissuade people from smoking cigarettes, adding that nearly 50% of existing smokers in the Malaysia would switch to vaping if authorities approved it.

"Vaping has the ability to meet and exceed the ministry's ambitious target to reduce smoking,” said The Reason Foundation vice president for research Julian Morris.

“For that to happen however, there needs to be open access to vape products.”

Ministry to regulate use of e-cigarette and vaping devices

Last December, the Ministry of Health (MOH) along with the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) were tasked to regulate the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices and enforce laws under the Consumer Protection Act 1999 (Act 599).

Following this, the Health Ministry would regulate the licensing, production, distribution and sale of all e-cigarette and vaping devices, as well as nicotine-free liquid. The MOH would also be drafting new laws to replace the Tobacco Control 2004 Regulations while the KPDNKK would look into new laws that control use of e-cigarettes and vaping in the next two years.

The government’s decision to regulate the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices are founded on health and safety concerns, however, there has yet to be conclusive evidence on the health effects of such devices.

Think tank: Vaping can reduce smoking rates

Researchers from the University College London and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a cross-sectional study comparing the exposure of nicotine and other tobacco-related carcinogens amongst cigarette smokers, users of e-cigarette devices, and users of nicotine replacement therapies such as skin patches or nicotine gum.

While similar levels of nicotine were found across participants, researchers found significantly lower levels of carcinogenic chemicals, tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in e-cigarette-only users or individuals on nicotine replacement therapies compared to cigarette smokers.

“If exactly 200,000 people take up vaping each year from 2011 until 2025 and exactly two thirds of those switch, then by 2025, two million adults would have switched from smoking to (exclusive) vaping,” Morris said.

“If the MOH estimates of the number of daily smokers is correct, then the number of smokers would have reduced by 2 million, or 46%, from 4.3 million to 2.3 million,” he also said, adding that this could reduce the government’s annual expenditure on smoking-related diseases from RM3 billion to RM1 billion.

Morris also posited that removing the “great uncertainty” surrounding vaping would help the MOH exceed its target of reducing smoking rates to 16%.

"It’s not just health expenditure, but a reduction in productivity,” he said. “People are dying in the most productive years of their lives. There is a net loss to society.” MIMS

Read more:
Toxicity of flavourings in e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine found to have differing health impact
5 common stumbling blocks for smokers who want to quit
Putrajaya warned for failing to comply with WHO framework convention on tobacco products