On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Banning vape not the answer

Various kinds of mods with different specifications are available in Vape stores. - Filepic

Various kinds of mods with different specifications are available in Vape stores. – Filepic

We should do what’s right for the country – not because we fear losing votes or agitating a section of businessmen.

LET’S face it – it is almost impossible to ban vaping. Don’t even think of it, so there’s really no point in passing yet another law that cannot be enforced.

Likewise, we all know that we cannot stop people from smoking. They know it is hazardous to their health and the people around them, including their family members, who end up being passive smokers because of their habit.

They have seen the horrendous pictures of the effects of smoking, and their habit is also increasingly expensive. Do they even care? Of course, no.

Although smoking has been declared “forbidden” by some religious authorities, it still does not work.

The bottom line is banning vaping is not the answer because those involved in the trade would just go underground or ply their trade online.

The substance would probably be delivered to the homes of customers if outlets continued to be raided or worse, closed.

The only sensible move is to regulate these outlets so that they are subjected to health and local government regulations.

It will also enable the authorities to have a record of how many people are involved in the business.

According to reports, vaping is defined as the act of inhaling water vapour through a personal vaporiser (the vaper’s tobacco-free version of the traditional cigarette).

It is regarded as an alternative to smoking, supposedly without several of the adverse effects of the latter: no bad smell and bad breath, no cigarette burns, no more dirty ashtrays, less likelihood of getting cancer and other smoking-affiliated illnesses.

A report said that vaping is simply the name given to the use of a vaporiser. The process involves applying heat to a liquid which generates vapour.

The user, called a vaper (smoker in traditional cigarette circles) gets their nicotine hit through inhaling the almost odourless vapour (smoking equivalent of ‘smoke’).

The dispute in Malaysia is clear – nicotine is used in vaping, as it is found in e-cigarettes, and the law is clear in giving the Health Ministry the power to act under the 1952 Poisons Act and 1983 Food Act.

Vape shops are currently not licensed to sell any products which contain nicotine, and like it or not the Health Ministry has the powers to act against those selling nicotine without a licence.

From the Health Ministry’s point of view, while the health risks of smoking are well established, the dangers involved in using e-cigarettes have not been conclusively determined.

The more apparent risk comes from users rigging their own vaporisers using diverse components and without proper research, as seen from incidents involving exploding e-cigarettes, it is said.

Last week, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam announced a new committee to address controversies arising from vaping and its effects on users, which include young people and reportedly, school children.

I am always wary of committees and more sub-committees, which would come up with voluminous reports that no one is sure would be read or just left to gather dust. It looks like a move to delay making a decision because the Government is not sure what it should do.

Like many things in this country, which quickly becomes politicised, even vaping has become a political hot potato.

One would have expected the Government to make a decision based on facts, like there is no conclusive evidence that vaping is harmful, or that nicotine is not allowed to be sold by vape shops.

But no – Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has happily announced that young entrepreneurs would be encouraged to expand their vape business, and spur vape brewers to be creative in developing new flavours without resorting to the use of banned substances.

“I want to see vape products from Malaysia being recognised worldwide, and what is more pleasing is seeing results from the creativity of young Malays and bumiputras.”

The Umno minister’s comment came after several bumiputra groups lodged a police report yesterday warning that the crackdown on vape could cost Barisan Nasional over a million votes in the next general election. The group also demanded for Dr Subramaniam’s resignation over the raids that have taken place so far.

It is baffling – that a simple vaping controversy has to be seen from a racial perspective. Well, if one is looking for a scapegoat, there is one – a Chinaman, too.

Vaping, according to reports, was invented by Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist from Shenyang, north east China, who took inspiration from the death of his father from cancer, as a result of excessive smoking.

He called this device a Ruyan, which loosely translated means “like smoke” and made US$73mil in 2013 after he sold off the patent rights to a UK company.

Sabri is right in suggesting that instead of calling for a ban, the industry should be regulated. That should be what a committee comprising various groups should do. Let’s look at how other nations are handling this issue.

But please, it is totally unnecessary to use the racial undertone. Do study the issue at hand in a rational manner.

If more and more people are giving up smoking for vaping, then it’s a notch lower and anything that is regarded as less harmful should certainly be seen in a positive light.

If you can’t get rid of cigarette companies, then why would we want to ban vaping? Surely, cigarettes are a bigger killer.

Let’s do what is right for the country, Malaysians and businesses – and not because we fear losing a million votes or agitating the Malay businessmen. As they said, don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.