The Ministry of Health (MOH) is still studying whether to promote e-cigarettes or vapes as less harmful alternatives to cigarette smoking, according to Khairy Jamaluddin. CodeBlue reports that the health minister revealed this in a written parliamentary reply to Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii that was submitted on 19 July this year.
In the reply, Khairy acknowledged that countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan and New Zealand have recognised such products as a harm reduction approach to tobacco smoking, and have been using them as a tool to help smokers quit. In fact, health agencies in the countries state that vaping does not produce tar or carbon monoxide – two of the most harmful elements in cigarettes.
However, the minister noted that scientific data from the 2021 Systematic Review report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that e-cigarettes or vapes still affect a person’s health. Khairy also referred to another paper, the 2020 Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin report, which had identified a new disease in the United States related to vaping. The disease in question, known as E-Cigarette and Vaping Product Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI), is a medical condition in which a person’s lungs become damaged from substances contained in e-cigarettes and vaping products.
“Therefore, deciding on a policy to acknowledge electronic cigarettes as harm reduction must be made carefully based on strong scientific evidence to protect the safety and health of Malaysians,” Khairy wrote in the reply. It’s also worth noting that EVALI has been made as a notifiable disease by the MOH in a bid to strengthen surveillance and to identify the burden of medical conditions related to e-cigarettes or vapes in Malaysia.
On a somewhat related note, the health minister plans to table a Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill in the current Parliament meeting. The bill, which proposes to introduce a generational ban that prohibits the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vapes to individuals born from 1 January 2005 onwards, had recently been approved by the Cabinet last week.