PETALING JAYA: A non-governmental organisation today took to task tobacco companies for allegedly sugar-coating its “safer alternatives to cigarettes”.
In maintaining that every nicotine and tobacco consumption device is a health hazard as they deliver chemicals into the respiratory system, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) called for stricter controls, if not a total ban, on such smoking alternatives.
theSun had last Friday highlighted the local introduction of a device called “Heets heat stick” by Philip Morris Malaysia recently.
The device is said to heat but not burn tobacco, resulting in the emission of a dry vapour, without the cloud of smoke produced by normal cigarettes.
Heets is touted by its marketeers as a “lesser evil” as it supposedly reduces public exposure to second-hand smoke.
“The government should just ban these devices or impose stiff taxes to keep it unaffordable to the masses,“ said CAP president S. M. Mohamed Idris, who stressed that nicotine is categorised as a Class C poison as it is highly addictive.
“This device should not have been allowed into the country since it poses a hazard to youths,“ Mohamed Idris said.
“At under RM600 a piece, it is affordable to urban youths as a vape devices costs about the same,“ he said, citing widespread purchases of smartphones costing up to as much as RM4,000 by young people, as an example of their purchasing power.
“However, the cost of tobacco delivery device is immaterial because once they get hooked on it, price is no longer a discouraging factor. This is why the decline in the number of smokers is unimpressive, despite the price of cigarettes going up,“ he added.
In saying that no one should not be allowed to import and sell tobacco products that do not carry pictorial health warnings, he called on the authorities to take stern action against those involved and to seize such goods.
“The Health Ministry should put a stop to this as the tobacco industry is circumventing efforts to de-normalise smoking through the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations and the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Mohamed Idris said vape products should be similarly dealt with.
About three years ago, the vaping trend swept across Malaysia, influencing smokers to switch over.
Several months later, hundreds of vape stores were raided by the Health Ministry over concerns of uncontrolled use of nicotine in the refill fluids, causing traders losses amounting to millions of ringgit.
The ministry, which applied the Poisons Act in conducting the raids, also revealed that many vape stores did not possess valid licences to sell the controlled liquids.
Under the law, nicotine can be sold or supplied as a medicine or an ingredient in medicine only by a registered medical practitioner.
Although Malaysia did not ban vaping like Singapore, the raids put a large number of traders out of business.
Come Jan 1 next year, the Health Ministry is imposing a blanket ban on all forms of nicotine-laced tobacco consumption at all eateries nationwide. It has not been announced whether Heets heat sticks would be included in the ban since it is apparently smokeless.