As Putrajaya move to tax vape industry, healthcare professionals decries govt move to exclude liquid nicotine from Poisons Act

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 —Two associations representing healthcare professionals in Malaysia voiced their opposition against the government's move to exempt nicotine as a controlled substance under the law ahead of a new taxation against vape products.

In a statement, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said it was informed of the possibility of nicotine being removed from the prescription list of controlled substances under the Poisons Act in order for vape-containing nicotine to be sold in the public domain.

"There are no regulations pertaining to the use of vape in Malaysia currently in place.

"Removing nicotine from this list of controlled substances under the Poisons Act will then allow any vape — both containing nicotine and non-nicotine — to be sold openly and legally to anyone including children of any age," MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai said.

MMA said nicotine is a dangerous, highly addictive substance commonly found in cigarettes whose use is prohibited to those under the age of 18.

Dr Muruga Raj said removing nicotine from the aforementioned Act before passing the Tobacco Control Bill will give children unhindered access to vape products containing nicotine — which will lead to a whole new generation of children and young people becoming addicted.

"Current actions denote the government is more concerned with the potential tax revenue and has little to no worry about the impact of this on the health of all Malaysians.

"The Tobacco Control Bill needs to be passed first. Only then there will be adequate control of vaping including vaping devices with nicotine. Only then can we move to tax vape and allow sale to those older than 18 under controlled conditions," he said.

Voicing similar concerns, the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang also called on the government to reject this proposal and to take action to protect public health and safety, further stating the move to exclude liquid nicotine would 'send the wrong message to the public'.

"MPS strongly opposes the proposal to exclude liquid or gel nicotine under the Poisons Act. We believe that such a proposal would be detrimental to the health and safety of the Malaysian public and is not in the national interest.

"We urge the government to strengthen regulations around e-cigarettes and vaping, including restrictions on marketing and advertising, and to increase public education about the dangers of nicotine use," MPS said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Amrahi said the very purpose of the Poisons Act being established was aimed to protect the public from the dangers of hazardous substances, including nicotine, and to regulate their sale, supply and use.

In February, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had announced the government will impose an excise duty on liquid or gel products containing nicotine, with half the revenue to be allocated to the Health Ministry.

When tabling Budget 2023, he said that the liquid or gel products with nicotine — estimated to be worth RM2 billion in potential government revenue — were widely used with electronic cigarettes and vaping, despite this being technically illegal.