85% says ban on cigs and vaping for next-gen will not work

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Majority of Malaysians say the recently announced policy to ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products including vape, to people born after 2005 will not work.

Responding to a dipstick survey by Retail and Trade Brand Advocacy Malaysia Chapter (RTBA Malaysia), a non-governmental organisation that safeguards businesses from criminal conduct, 85% of those surveyed said the ban will not work and instead will create a black market for cigarettes and vape. 

Respondents to the survey also said that the ban would be difficult to enforce, and will ultimately impact legal and local businesses in Malaysia.

Dato Fazli Nordin, Managing Director of RTBA Malaysia, says, “While RTBA Malaysia understands the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) motive, the proposed ban on cigarettes and vaping for the next generation is 100% theory and 0% evidence.”

“Banning is not a solution. Take for example vape products containing nicotine which are currently prohibited from being sold in the market. Yet, there is consumer demand for vape products containing nicotine. Worst still is the tobacco black market, where Malaysia has the highest level of illegal cigarettes in the world, driven by the huge price gap between legal and illegal products.”

“The government must take a pragmatic approach. This proposal will cause more negative consequences as the black market for cigarettes and vape will boom. Prohibition will see consumers, once reaching the legal adult age, turn to black market sources for cigarettes and vape. Contents of these black market products more often than not, do not comply with the Government’s standards and regulations. This move may very well push legal and local businesses off the edge and facilitate an overwhelming black market economy.”

He says Vape entrepreneurs, in particular, will be seriously affected. They have long advocated for the regulations of vape products in Malaysia. Instead, legal businesses are now faced with the risk of having to completely close down as the black market will then dominate the market.

“There is also the issue of enforcement. Such policy will be very challenging to enforce, and there will be a lot of complexity to businesses.”

Dato Fazli Nordin, Managing Director of RTBA Malaysia

“The government must thoroughly review the repercussions of any new policies before implementation by conducting full, proper studies. Otherwise, it can lead to inconsistent enforcement and severely impact the local business community.”

No New Zealand ban on vape

The dipstick survey, which was open to the public for close to a week, saw close to 1,200 Malaysians sharing their views on the ban on cigarettes and vape, which is proposed to be implemented starting next year. This move is similar to New Zealand’s plan to phase out smoking starting 2027, when their policy is expected to take place.

“Although the Malaysian government was inspired by New Zealand’s move, a stark difference is that New Zealand is not imposing a ban on vape products. Instead, the country promotes vape as a less harmful alternative, and encourages New Zealanders to make the switch from traditional cigarettes.”

He says multiple scientific studies have found vaping to be a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.

Cochrane Review, in a report in 2021, concluded that vaping can help people quit smoking and may be more effective than existing nicotine-replacement therapies, he adds.

“In Malaysia, a recent study revealed that by encouraging smokers to switch to vape as a less harmful alternative will see the country reduce the smoking population in Malaysia to 4 million by 2025.

“Further, the report estimated that vape will help the country to reduce its healthcare spend on treating smoking-related diseases by RM1.3 billion in 2025 alone.”

“Instead of implementing an outright ban, the Ministry should consider reviewing these reports. We must remain open-minded and consider such solutions if our goal truly is to really reduce smoking prevalence in the country,” Dato Fazli concludes.

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