Early election could scupper Malaysian plan for a birthdate e-cigarette ban
The country’s bid to end tobacco and e-liquid sales to young people could be endangered by political change, reports ECigIntelligence
Malaysia’s latest attempt to put an end to nicotine use among the younger generation is likely to be delayed, or even derailed, with an early election expected to stall the new bill.
The country has had several changes of government since 2018, and a succession of coalitions jostling to improve their slim majorities since early 2020. Boosted by successes in recent by-elections, UMNO, the largest Malay party in the National Coalition (Barisan Nasional), has been eager to regain power after being ousted nearly four years ago.
It now appears the Malaysian Parliament is likely to be dissolved after the tabling of the budget in late October, making way for fresh elections. And Ska Mohd Basir, founder of the Malaysian Organization of Vape Entity (Move), told ECigIntelligence that a delay would result in postponing, or even quashing, the Generational End Game Bill (GEG), which the Ministry of Health had hoped would be passed in early August.
The proposed regulation aims at ending tobacco sales to those born after 2007, including e-liquids both with and without nicotine and smoking substitutes. High penalties would be set for anyone who sold or distributed tobacco-related products to under-15s.
However, backlash from the tobacco and vaping industries and various other groups led to a review of the bill. The ministry then agreed to scrap body searches for under-18s and to replace fines for offenders – initially set at MYR20,000 ($4,460) – with community service.
This may all be in vain if there is another change of government before the GEG can be imposed. However, Ridhwan Rosli, secretary general of the Malaysian Vape Chamber of Commerce (MVCC), believes the bill could be passed, but in another form.
“Regardless of who is in government, there is high chance it will go through as it has the support of the general public that does not smoke or vape,” he said.
Ridhwan and Basir both agree that the GEG as it currently stands needs to change if it is to become law. Basir says the government ignored an earlier promise to exclude e-cigarettes from the birthdate-based tobacco ban, while Ridhwan said the bill must not include any harm reduction products.
“What’s in the law should be logically possible to enforce with current government resources – if not it will be just another law in the book,” added Ridhwan.
Vape retailer Ker Soon King told ECigIntelligence that enforcement is poor in Malaysia, so having a draconian bill would not work towards smoking cessation. He said the industry had been waiting for vape regulations for years now, so retailers don’t have to constantly operate or “sell in fear”.
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