Banning the display of vape products may impact retailers and lead to boom in the industry’s black market, experts warn

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — With the Health Ministry set to fully enforce the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2024 (Act 852) this month, experts said drastic moves like banning the display of vape products at shop counters can lead to creating a whole new market for non-compliant and illegal products.

Pankaj Kumar, managing director of Datametrics Research and Information Centre (DARE), said such a ban can undermine both consumer safety and government revenue.

“The vape industry, which is currently valued at RM3.48 billion, contributes to the economy by creating jobs and facilitates growth of the retail sector. Drastic measures can stifle this growth and lead to job losses,” he said at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable here.

“Implementing and enforcing drastic measures can also be costly for the retailers. Hefty costs and investments would need to be made to adjust to the ban of display of vape products and these resources could be better spent on facilitating growth of businesses especially in current economic situations.

“A sensible and balanced regulatory framework is essential to ensure the vape legal market that can be properly monitored and enforced.”

Managing director of Datametrics Research and Information Sdn Bhd (DARE), Pankaj Kumar (centre), speaking at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Managing director of Datametrics Research and Information Sdn Bhd (DARE), Pankaj Kumar (centre), speaking at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Managing director of Datametrics Research and Information Sdn Bhd (DARE), Pankaj Kumar (centre), speaking at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Pankaj added that the display ban would discourage smokers from switching to a less harmful nicotine product.

“The whole idea of switching to vape is to reduce the smoking prevalence in the country, but if you were to implement this, it would defeat the purpose of encouraging people from switching to a less harmful product compared to tobacco,” he said.

Pankaj urged the government to discuss with industry players to meet in the middle.

He said the best approach is for the government to meet the Malaysian Vape Chamber of Commerce and come up with guidelines which are acceptable to both parties.

President of Advanced Centre for Addiction Treatment Advocacy Dr Arifin Fii, who was also speaking at the same roundtable, said that the prohibitive measures taken by the government can be counter-productive and hinder access to less harmful alternatives.

“It sends the wrong message to smokers and cause them to be misinformed about switching to less harmful products. Instead, educational, informative. responsible and regulated displays targeted at smokers and potential quitters should be allowed,” he said.

“Education on harm reduction is crucial. Informing adult smokers about the relative benefits of switching to vape products can significantly reduce smoking prevalence.”

Tarmizi Anuwar, a country associate at the Consumer Choice Center, said that the display ban can limit the information available to consumers.

Country associate manager of Consumer Choice Center (CCC) Tarmizi Anuwar speaking at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Country associate manager of Consumer Choice Center (CCC) Tarmizi Anuwar speaking at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Country associate manager of Consumer Choice Center (CCC) Tarmizi Anuwar speaking at the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) Roundtable. — Picture by Hari Anggara

“The display ban can hinder their ability to make informed choices. Restrictive measures can also drive consumers to illegal products, where the products are not compliant with any safety standards set and contain unknown and unregulated substances,” he said.

The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2024 (Act 852) was gazetted on February 2 this year as a comprehensive form of control over all types of smoking products, including electronic cigarettes or vape.

Last month, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said his ministry will enforce the law beginning this month, without mentioning a specific date.