Govt forms working committee on vapes

Association says the committee is expected to make its recommendations next year

By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By HUSSIEN SHAHARUDDIN

The federal government formed a working committee to look into regulating the once-booming vaping industry that has stagnated due to conflicting signals about its legality and acceptance.

The committee was formed in July and includes representatives from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, and vaping industry groups.

Malaysia E-Vaporisers and Tobacco Alternative Association (Mevta) secretary general Norman Ismail said the committee has convened and is expected to make its recommendations next year.

Norman said one of the suggestions to regulate the industry is to license sellers of vape products, which will curb illegal sales especially to minors.

“We are suggesting that only legitimate outlets are allowed to sell vape products. Authorised vape shops will have the staff to ensure that only eligible customers can buy vapes,” he said in a telephone interview. Norman said the industry would also like online sales to be monitored and only authorised sellers to be allowed to sell vape products.

When asked about the price that may be affected due to fewer online sellers, Norman denied this and said there will not be much impact as the cost of the liquids has always been the same.

“What we need to be worried (about) are uncontrolled sales. We wouldn’t want minors to pick up the habit as now, even in the night markets and bazaars, it is sold openly.”

Norman is happy with the progress of the working committee, and said the authorities will make an announcement regarding this matter soon.

The vaping industry has seen a boom and bust in a matter of a few months. Industry numbers show that in October last year there were about 800,000 people using the vapour gadgets to smoke, but at the beginning of 2017, the numbers were drastically reduced to 200,000.

Many of those who stopped vaping may have been convinced by a concerted effort by the MoH to publicise the dangers of the new trend, and the government’s decision not to encourage it pending a move to regulate the industry.

Also, with virtually no new users recorded, the industry fears that vaping is a passing trend about to die off unless the uncertainty over its use is removed through regulation.

Mevta founder Allan Foo was quoted this year as saying that sales of vape fluids were down by 90% this year, and that buyers of new vape devices were already dedicated users.

As a result, he said many cigarette smokers who tried vaping last year did not switch fully to the electronic devices.