PETALING JAYA: Users of e-cigarettes want it to be regulated and be made widely available. They say banning e-cigarettes, if it ever comes to that, will not stop them from puffing.
In a first-of-its-kind survey of adult smokers in Malaysia, a regional consumer advocacy group found that most smokers surveyed saw e-cigarettes as a â€œpositive alternativeâ€ to tobacco products.
factasia.org co-founder Heneage Mitchell said 75% of the respondents would consider buying e-cigarettes via other channels or countries, if they were not legally sold here.
Already, some 26% of vapers get their e-cigs online. So, banning it would simply push the industry underground, he said.
The number of adult Malaysian e-cigarette users, or vapers, is estimated to be between 250,000 and one million, he said.
â€œThe use of e-cigarettes should be restricted to adults but they are here to stay.
â€œThereâ€™s a clear need for Malaysia to regulate the industry, establish quality standards, tax the products rationally and ensure they are sold only to adults.
â€œBanning it will be a mistake because like conventional tobacco products, it will cause the illicit market to thrive,â€ he said.
The recent online survey polled 404 legal-age smokers in Malaysia to gauge consumersâ€™ views on safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Surveys were also conducted in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand.
â€œIn Malaysia, 100% of those surveyed know about e-cigs and 69% have either used it or are using it. â€œSo, thereâ€™s a need to protect consumers. They want positive Government action,â€ he said in an interview on Friday.
On June 28, Sunday Star highlighted the countryâ€™s booming vape industry. Despite being worth half-a-billion-ringgit, the market remains unregulated unlike in most countries where it is either banned or controlled.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had said that a technical working group to study the impact of e-cigarettes on smokers and those surrounding them has been formed and the upcoming report, which includes e-cigs as an alternative to reduce smoking, will be used to create a new policy on vaping activities in the country.
Vapers use electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), or e-cigs, to deliver a vaporised mixture of chemicals to their lungs. Each device has an electronic vaporisation system and controls, rechargeable batteries, and cartridges, which contain varying amounts of liquid nicotine to be vaporised.
factasia.org co-founder John Boley said a whopping 87% of smokers surveyed would consider switching to e-cigs if they were legal, met quality and safety standards, and were conveniently available.
More than two-thirds of the respondents said they have used e-cigs and of these, 75% said they do so mainly as an alternative to regular cigarettes, he added.
â€œSmokers are almost unanimous in believing that they should have a right to information about less harmful products like e-cigs, while more than 90% agree that the Government should encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes and ensure they are not used by youth through tax and regulatory policies,â€ he said.
factasia.org is an independent, not-for-profit, consumer-oriented advocate for debate about regulating the rights of adult citizens throughout Asia to choose to use tobacco or other nicotine related products.
It opposes all under-age use of cigarettes or any other product containing nicotine, and does not engage in any manufacturing or distribution activities.