Fearful of raids, vape sellers pack up as bans come into effect

Although the bans on vape traders have begun to grow in number since Johor announced the first, other states such as Malacca said that they do not plan to crack down on sales. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Although the bans on vape traders have begun to grow in number since Johor announced the first, other states such as Malacca said that they do not plan to crack down on sales. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Vape traders in states with announced bans have begun shuttering their operations, fearful of losing their inventory to authorities out to enforce the prohibition on the sale of e-cigarettes and related paraphernalia.

One vape trader from Kelantan told Malay Mail Online that he was forced to conduct a firesale of his stock at below cost, estimating his losses to be around RM15,000 from the business in which he put almost five times the amount.

“I would rather my losses be small than letting the enforcement officers confiscate my vape items and suffer bigger losses,” the trader, who only wanted to be known as Firdaus, said.

Another trader from Kedah, Mohd Salleh Idris, considered himself lucky after he managed to break-even when he decided to closed down his store there following Johor’s decision to ban vape product sales.

Johor was the first state to announce such a ban starting January 1, following a decree from the states’ Sultan.

“I decided to close down my business when Johor announced the ban in the state as I kind of predicted the ban to be imposed here as well,” he said.

While some have opted to discontinue pursuing the booming trade, others have taken advantage of the inconsistency from state to state.

Although the bans have begun to grow in number since Johor announced the first, other states such as Malacca said that they do not plan to crack down on sales. The prohibitions are also limited to sales, and Malaysians may continue to vape regardless of where they bought their vaporisers from.

“It is painful that Johor has imposed the ban but I have open an outlet in Malacca as the government there is slightly more receptive towards our kind of business,” said Johor trader Mohd Amir Ibrahim, who said he caters to the Johor market through online sales.

“The ban is not so much of an issue to me but I hope I am not too early in saying so,” he said.

States that have announced bans on vape sales are Johor, Kelantan, Kedah, and Terengganu, which announced the ban just yesterday, after its state fatwa council’s decision yesterday to declare vaping as “haram” or forbidden.

Malaysian E-vaporisers and Tobacco Alternative Association’s (MEVTA) Rizani Zakaria condemned Terengganu’s overnight ban, saying the state gave traders no time to respond.

“You cannot simply decide yesterday and ban today. You have to be fair to our traders.

“This is clearly hurting our local and young entrepreneurs,” he said.

Rizani urged other states not to be hasty in imposing their own bans, asking them to wait for the Health Ministry to provide rules and regulations on vaping first.

Meanwhile, Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) said that it has not raided any vape stores today, with corporate communications director Abdul Aziz Ithnin explaining that most shops, regardless of the nature of business, were closed for New Year’s Day.

He said MBJB will hold checks periodically to ensure the ban was followed by premise owners in the city.

Pertubuhan Ikatan Usahawan Kecil dan Sederhana Malaysia (Ikhlas) president Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, when contacted, said he has not received any complaints on raids at vape outlets today.

He said there were raids in Terengganu yesterday, but could not elaborate on the losses suffered by traders.

Separately, lawyer Zulhasmi Zakaria Termizi, representing Ikhlas, said he was hoping to file for an interim injunction with the High Court to stop the crackdown on the sale of vape products nationwide.

On Monday, the group filed a case against state and federal authorities seeking damages of up to RM1 million over raids by several enforcement agencies.

Ikhlas named Inspector-General of Police, Health Ministry director-general, Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism director-general and MBJB as defendants.

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