• 2023
  • Vape Products, The Next ‘Rahmah-Like’ Incentive?

Vape Products, The Next ‘Rahmah-Like’ Incentive?

Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak 
Opinion - Bacalah Malaysia 
April 3, 2023 

Late last year, Malaysia proposed a Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022, aimed to phase out cigarette smoking and vape products by prohibiting their use and sale to everyone born from 2007 onwards.

The bill, along with its “generational end game” measure, received praise from many health conscious quarters for being bold.  Malaysia, noted for being sluggish in the area of tobacco (nicotine) control took the last bold steps some 10 years ago through efforts like the establishment of ‘smoke-free public spaces’, the placing of ‘pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets’ as well as ‘a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.’

It is proper given almost 30,000 tobacco-related deaths in Malaysia annually. 


The issue of tobacco control is a vital one, especially involving the young adults, not only to prevent avoidable loss of life, but also tobacco addiction, long recognised as ‘the gateway’ to other highly addictive drugs.

As  declared to be number 1 enemy of the country, the success rate to eliminate the menace seems a dismal one after spending billions of ringgit, and after so many decades. In short, we are losing the war!

Hence, the enthusiasm to support the recent actions is overwhelming given well-documented evidence in many neighbouring countries, let alone internationally particularly in the more health-enlightenment ones.

Muslim countries and communities are generally laggards in this endeavour. In Malaysia,  for instance, the decline in smoking prevalence has been slow, from 29.5 per cent in 2000 to 21.3 per cent in 2019.

Male smoking prevalence, allegedly, remained persistently high, with only a slight decline from 49.5 percent in 2003 to 40.5 percent in 2019. The rate of adolescents who smoke is about 13.8 percent putting Malaysia among the poorly ranked even among Asean countries.

Therefore, when the Poisons Board, an independent national body formed under the Poisons Act to advise the health minister, wholly objected to the government’s proposal ‘to exclude liquid nicotine from the Poisons List on the basis that the harm of allowing e-cigarettes and vape to be sold to anyone, including children,’ it was another high point in the effort to strengthen tobacco control. 


The unanimously rejection of the government’s proposal came ahead of the April 1 planned taxation of e-cigarettes and vape.

The Health Minister however, can reverse the decision as she holds the ultimate power to amend the Poisons List.

Still, arguably, it ‘outweighed the benefit of tax revenue from such products containing nicotine, a highly addictive substance.’

After all, the ‘vaping epidemics’ especially among youth has now been a global concern, leading to some firm policy decisions taken to prevent the ‘poison’ substance from being accessible as a controlled substance.

The United Kingdom reportedly prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products to anyone below 18 years of age. Among Asean nations, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand have already banned vape and health tobacco products.

Malaysia has been mulling since 2015 as though the high annual death toll of its citizens due to tobacco (mis)used is not impactful enough.

This is despite the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 16 calling for a ban on sales to and by minors, consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Malaysia is a party to and thereby obligated to protect children from harm.

The fact remains that vaping among Malaysian school children is already problematic, with more girls starting to vape and about 10 percent of adolescents — 17 percent of teenage boys and 3 percent of teenage girls — vape.

Their numbers are said to increase in coming years with easy online access to these products through (bad) influencers on social media.  


Having said that, hopes were raised when the new Minister of Health, issued a long-awaited statement in January 2023, to express her concern about the promotion, advertising, and sale of e-cigarettes and vape products that resembled children’s toys.

She had also duly noted then that the sale of liquid nicotine was controlled under the Poisons Act.

This resonates well with the earlier statements made by professional bodies like the Malaysian Medical Association, the Malaysian Pharmacists Society, and the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy denouncing the move to exclude nicotine from control under the Poisons Act.

They categorically highlighted that this ran contrary to public health and would lead to ‘cheap vape disposables containing high concentrations of liquid nicotine to flood the market.’

Unfortunately, this is short-lived following an alleged ‘hurriedly’ meeting was commenced last week.

The Poisons Board (re)discussed the proposed exemption of liquid or gel nicotine used in e-cigarettes and vape from control under the Poisons Act 1952, such that nicotine e-liquids will be ‘exempted from Poisons List of controlled substances April 1 in an order gazetted by Finance Minister.’ Another words, there was a big U-turn!

If it is meant to an April Fool’s joke, it is a deadly one.

The move has just switched the toxic item into junk food item, similar to chewing gum, readily available to all!

As envisaged in my previous column, this could seen as the most controversial ‘rahmah-like’ package, much to the ‘delight’ of the B40 vape-users and the ardent supporters!

Instead of bringing mercy to all, many more will be exposed to highly addictive poison in stark contradiction to the essence of ‘rahmah’ in safeguarding the sanctity and sacredness of life! – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY

  • The writer is a lifelong anti-tobacco advocate. He is the founding director of Pusat Racun Negara at Universiti Sains Malaysia.