The Malaysian government said Friday it would not ban electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapes, after a proposal to do so sparked a fierce debate centered on the health effects of using them. Instead, the government would implement regulations and carry out public health campaigns to education the public on the effects of vaping, as smoking electronic cigarettes is called.
"The cabinet fully recognizes the health effects of both cigarettes smoking and vaping," Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said, the Malaysian Insider reported. He said he was concerned about a spike in the number of people using e-cigarettes in Malaysia and that Malaysia would decide in the future whether a full ban was warranted. Deputy Health Minister Hilmi Yahaya said a full ban on e-cigarettes was not off the table. “At present, we have only laws governing tobacco, but we are looking at new laws to cover vaporizers, tobacco and shisha,’’ he said, the Daily Post reported.
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysia's minister of rural and regional development minister, praised the decision not to ban e-cigarettes, saying that they had less nicotine than ordinary cigarettes. “If cigarettes are more dangerous than vaping, why not ban cigarettes?’’ he said, according to the Daily Post.
Many people view electronic cigarettes as a healthier alternative to ordinary smokes, and electronic cigarette companies often bill their products that way as well. "Replace Your Smoking Habit Today!" reads the homepage of vapebrothers.com, which describes itself as "Malaysia's #1 Personal Vaporizer & Electronic Retail Store."
But a study published in September that echoed the findings of earlier research found that vapes may release carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, substances into a smoker's lungs, including formaldehyde, calling into question the claim that e-cigarettes are actually safer than ordinary ones.
Others have called for strict regulations on e-cigarettes in Malaysia as a matter of safety, not just health. "There is no law prohibiting the sale of poor quality e-cigarettes," read one opinion article published Friday in the New Straits Times. "Accidents involving individuals and vaping devices have occurred, with cases of devices blowing up and injuring users," the author added.
An estimated 1 million people in Malaysia now smoke electronic cigarettes. The country has a population of 30.5 million, according to the CIA World Factbook.