The Malaysian government's recent move to exempt nicotine from the Poisons Act has legalized vaping in the country. While this may benefit the government's tax collection efforts and the struggling vape industry, it could also be a shortsighted decision without proper regulations in place to define new nicotine products entering the market.
Innovation in the tobacco industry has led to the development of non-combustible products such as vape, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco products. As science and technology continue to advance, more new products will emerge, making it crucial for Malaysia's tobacco control regulations to keep up with the times.
This article argues that the government must adopt long-term thinking when collecting vape taxes and regulating the industry. Three key points must be considered to ensure that any future policies are forward-looking and prioritize the health of the younger generation.
Clear Category Differentiation
The government must push for clear category differentiation between combustible and non-combustible tobacco products. The former includes traditional smoking products such as cigarettes and cigars, while the latter encompasses vapes, e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, tobacco pods, shisha, and similar products.
A clearer distinction between these categories will help the government regulate them better, including the imposition of appropriate taxes. The best form of taxation for tobacco products should be linked to their risk level - higher risk products should attract higher taxes.
To this end, the government should conduct studies on the risks of vaping and other smokeless products within Malaysia. These studies can be used as a guideline to draft more effective tobacco control policies that prioritize public health.
There needs to be a clearer definition of what smoking is and what vaping is. The lack of clarity in this regard will create a lot of grey areas in the regulations.
The government needs to define the maximum nicotine content and flavours that are allowed in vaping products. Sweet flavours that mimic juice and candy are particularly attractive to youths, which has led to a vaping epidemic worldwide.
Affordability is also a factor in vaping's popularity. Flavour preferences change with age, and so does spending power. Raising the minimum age for vaping to 21 instead of banning it outright may be more effective in addressing this issue.
An educational element is needed to safeguard younger individuals from the harm of vaping. The government must take an aggressive stance in educating youths and engaging with them on the dangers of vaping.
Sloganeering alone is not enough. Parents and teachers need to be educated on how to spot whether under-aged teens are vaping. Only then can they help to shield them from it.
The Generation End Game (GEG) Bill, which is set to be re-tabled in Malaysia's parliament, offers an opportunity for the government to correct past mistakes in tobacco control policies. The prime minister's emphasis on education and fiscal control is commendable.
However, to ensure that any future policies are effective, the government must consider the three key points outlined in this article - clear category differentiation, clear definitions, and education. A long-term approach to collecting vape taxes and regulating the industry will benefit not just the government but also the health of the nation.
- Why did the Malaysian government exempt nicotine from the Poisons Act? The exemption was made to legalize vaping in the country and increase tax collection.
- What are the risks associated with vaping? Studies have suggested that vaping is less harmful than traditional smoking products. However, more research is needed to ascertain the risks of vaping and other smokeless products locally.
- Why is it crucial for the government to define the categories of tobacco products? Clear differentiation between combustible and non-combustible tobacco products will help the government regulate them better, including the imposition of appropriate taxes.
- Why does the the government need to focus on education to address the harms of vaping? An educational element is needed to safeguard younger individuals from the harm of vaping. The government must take an aggressive stance in educating youths and engaging with them on the dangers of vaping, as simply banning it may not be effective.
- What is the Generation End Game (GEG) Bill, and why is it controversial? The GEG Bill curtails the freedom of choice for adults who turn 18 after a certain agreed period and beyond from purchasing tobacco products. It is controversial as it is a restrictive policy for young adults, and there are concerns about potential enforcement issues.