Malaysia: E-cig biz wins a small victory, no ban for now

Recently there was a little fire inside a Malindo aircraft during its domestic flight into Kuala Lumpur when the e-cigarette a passenger was carrying exploded on his lap. Yes, it was spontaneous combustion. The passenger was injured and a doctor on board the flight attended to the passenger’s injuries.

One would expect the manufacturer of these e-cigarettes to do the responsible thing and recall the product from the market immediately to prevent other similar accidents. There was no such recall, and is unlikely to happen.

In fact a group which represents vapers, Malaysian Organisation of Vape Entity, immediately issued a statement dismissing the Malindo incident as a case of ignorance that is simply being blown out of proportion. Bottom line, the e-cigarette device can explode suddenly, anytime, anywhere, causing serious injury and even death to the user. 

There are so many other issues surrounding e-cigarettes – carcinogens and other toxicants in its vapour, harmful flavourings, accidental ingestion by children, and unproven track record of its efficacy as a cessation device.

Immediately following the incident, the Malaysian Health Minister announced the Ministry was studying laws to ban vaping completely before it became a major issue. However, the next day the Ministry backtracked on the announcement and said they will regulate, and not ban.

Regulating e-cigarettes will present huge enforcement challenges for the authorities as currently the e-cigarette business has been operating in a “free for all” environment. Apparently there are some  1,000 vape shops nationwide and over 400 local mod (electronic vaporiser device) and e-liquid brands.

Four countries in the ASEAN region have already banned e-cigarettes, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore (from December).

Australia: BAT flexing its nicotine muscles with another law suit

Governments should be aware that the top transnational tobacco companies, such as PMI, BAT and JTI own e-cigarette business and have been touting its virtues as a “cessation device”, while still selling regular cigarettes.

BAT, which owns an e-cigarette business, Nicovations, has launched legal actionagainst Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) claiming that the health authority did not even consider an application to have its Voke nicotine inhaler listed, much like other nicotine products that could help smokers quit smoking.

BAT’s nicotine product arm, has filed a claim in the Federal Court claiming that the TGA erred by not even reviewing­ the application. BAT said the inhaler could prove more effective than other quitting products such as patches or gums, with the inhaler working on a different system to other e-cigarettes and not requiring heating.

How about that! The tobacco industry wants its customers to continue smoking its cigarettes but also quit cigarettes simultaneously. Try applying this situation to other consumer products. And the tobacco industry will sue a government when it acts to safeguard people’s health.