Move to ban vaping, shisha gets thumbs up from medical community

A group of vapers enjoying a puff. The Health Ministry is working on legislation for a total ban on vape devices and accessories due to potential safety hazards. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A group of vapers enjoying a puff. The Health Ministry is working on legislation for a total ban on vape devices and accessories due to potential safety hazards. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

PETALING JAYA, Oct 3 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) will support any move by the government to ban e-cigarettes and Shisha smoking under a “better safe than sorry” policy.

Its president Dr Ashok Philips said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya’s statement that the government may impose a ban on vaping devices and its nicotine “juice” was a positive development.

“Should research determine that these devices are not harmful, then it would not be an issue to overturn the ban.

“But if people are allowed to vape and some adverse health effect is discovered later, you can’t retract or overturn health problems that arise,” he said, adding that such a ban should be enforced strictly.

Dr Hilmi, in making the statement earlier yesterday in George Town, had said that the ministry was doing comprehensive research on the matter and getting feedback from experts.

“Perhaps we need to ban it once and for all just like Thailand and Singapore,” said Dr Hilmi. 

He dismissed the widespread belief that vaping was less harmful than cigarettes as untrue, saying the vapour and smoke were both potentially carcinogenic. 

Dr Ashok said there was a lack of solid medical evidence on the safety of the devices and  chemicals used in vaping devices.

It has been claimed that these devices contain a lower dose of toxic chemicals, making them “safer” then cigarettes. 

“The reality is we are looking at an unregulated industry where any substance can be added into the fluid that is vapourised,” Ashok said.

He said the exact composition of the fluid used could not be regulated, with the possibility of manufacturers adding potentially poisonous ingredients or illegal substances into them.

“We hear of people putting anything they want into it. It is not a new matter as these devices have been around for some time but legislation has yet to catch up,” he said.

On whether shopping centres and business outlets should allow vaping, he said it was up to them.

“‘But personally, I would not recommend it. It is better to play it safe until solid evidence is established on whether vaping devices are safe,” he said.