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    (Open) Vaping Among Non-Smoking Adolescents
    The rise of vaping in Southeast Asia has become a cause for concern, particularly in Malaysia. A recent Al Jazeera documentary titled "Flavoured Toxins: The Rise of Vaping" shed light on a disturbing revelation - some vape shops in Kuala Lumpur are selling e-cigarettes to adolescents who are not smokers. The documentary features an undercover operation where a young buyer, resembling a teenager, is equipped with a hidden camera and microphone to expose the ease of purchasing vapes. The video footage shows vape shop employees selling e-cigarettes to the young woman without verifying her age or requesting identification.

    Selling to Non-Smoking Adolescents
    Despite informing the vape shop employees that she is not a smoker and is trying vaping for the first time, the undercover buyer is still sold the products. Shockingly, one vape shop even sells her a 10,000-puff vape device for RM36. These devices are typically targeted at regular vapers and can last a week or two, depending on their usage habits. The seller in the documentary recommends this device as a starting point for the young buyer, emphasizing its high puff capacity.

    Lack of Regulation and Self-Regulation
    According to Mohammad Nazeem Talib, the president of the E-Vaporizers and Tobacco Alternative Association Malaysia (MEVTA), there are clear warnings on e-cigarette products and in vape shops to deter minors. Stickers indicating "18-year-old and above only" are present, and product packaging explicitly states that the products are not intended for children. The Malaysian vape industry made a pledge to self-regulate after a stakeholder meeting with Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni. However, the extent of this self-regulation remains unclear as local vape shops continue to sell e-cigarettes with nicotine content as high as five percent, well above the cap of two percent in regulated countries.

    Legalization of Nicotine Vape Sales
    The sale of nicotine vape to anyone in Malaysia, including minors under the age of 18, became legal when liquid and gel nicotine were removed from the Poisons Act. As of now, there are no specific regulations governing e-cigarettes in Malaysia. Last month, the government's attempt to pass the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 failed in Parliament. Former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who previously proposed a tobacco bill, expressed disappointment in the lack of enforcement and regulation. He highlighted the absence of laws against vaping and emphasized the need for immediate action.

    Targeting Youths and Misleading Information
    Vape shops across the Klang Valley have been observed targeting youths. The placement of "18-year-old and above only" stickers and signs, although present, is often inconspicuous, making them easily missed by customers. Furthermore, employees at these shops often downplay the addictive nature of e-cigarettes and claim that their products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, which contain tar and other chemicals.

    E-cigarette manufacturers from China have admitted to actively targeting youths as young as 18 by creating stylish and fashionable products. They aim to make vaping appealing to young adults who may be reluctant to switch from conventional cigarettes. Some manufacturers have even designed devices that resemble toys, keychains, or milk cartons adorned with cute symbols, which are undeniably attractive to children.

    Legal Challenge and Defense
    On June 30, the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC), the Malaysian Green Lung Association (MGLA), and the child rights group Voice of the Children (VoC) filed for a judicial review against Health Minister Dr. Zaliha Mustafa's decision to delist liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons Act. However, Dr. Zaliha defended her decision, stating that the legal declassification did not imply neglect of child health by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

    The Al Jazeera documentary on the rise of vaping in Southeast Asia has exposed the concerning issue of vape shops in Kuala Lumpur selling e-cigarettes to non-smoking adolescents. Despite the presence of warning signs and self-regulatory efforts within the Malaysian vape industry, the sale of high-nicotine e-cigarettes to minors continues. The absence of specific regulations and the failure to pass the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill have created a lack of enforcement and accountability. It is crucial for the government to take immediate action to protect the youth and ensure the responsible regulation of vaping in Malaysia.



    What did the Al Jazeera documentary reveal about vaping in Southeast Asia?
    The Al Jazeera documentary exposed the sale of e-cigarettes to non-smoking adolescents in Kuala Lumpur vape shops.

    Did the undercover operation show any age verification procedures at the vape shops?
    No, the video footage revealed that vape shop employees sold e-cigarettes to a young woman without verifying her age or requesting identification.

    What is the status of self-regulation within the Malaysian vape industry?
    Despite a pledge to self-regulate, some local vape shops continue to sell e-cigarettes with nicotine content exceeding the cap set in regulated countries.

    What caused the legalization of nicotine vape sales to minors in Malaysia?
    The removal of liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons Act effectively legalized the sale of nicotine vape to anyone, including minors, as there are currently no specific regulations on e-cigarettes.

    What challenges did the government face in regulating smoking products?
    The government's attempt to pass the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 failed in Parliament, leading to a lack of enforcement and regulation in the vaping industry.