New law can break smoking habit [NSTTV]

The implementation of Malaysia's anti-smoking laws is a significant milestone for public health after more than a decade of revisions, said the Health Ministry.

Its Disease Control Division deputy director, Dr Noraryana Hassan, said the landmark Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 was successful for its standalone nature, separate from the Food Act 1983.

In an exclusive interview on the New Straits Times' "Beyond the Headlines" podcast yesterday, Dr Noraryana said under the previous act, the government could not expand regulation beyond tobacco control, such as for vaping products, to curb the detrimental effects of smoking.

As one of the main officers who worked closely on the contents of the bill, she said the government could now fully exercise the strategy in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which Malaysia has been a party to since 2005.

Although the bill is pending approval from the Senate, she believed it will not face any hurdle.

"We now have a law extensively governing the registration, sales and purchase of tobacco products, smoking materials and tobacco substitute products. A first of its kind.

"Registration is important because we can monitor what is the content of the smoking substance and the (vape) liquid used for sale in line with Article 9 and Article 10 of the WHO FCTC," she said.

Article 9 deals with the testing and measuring of the contents and emissions of tobacco products and their regulation, while Article 10 deals with the disclosure of information on such contents and emissions to government authorities and the public.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2022 showed that one out of four Malaysian teenage girls vapes.

Dr Aryana said another advantage of the bill was that it included the control of usage among minors, which would help address the high prevalence of smoking among teenagers, no thanks to the rise of e-cigarettes available in the market since 2015.

She said the various types of vaping, from mods to pods and now disposables, were designed to appeal not just to adults, but also children.

She said the statistics were highly alarming and the trend was encouraged by marketing that claimed vaping products could aid smoking cessation as vaping did not involve tobacco and the process of combustion.

"Children pick up habits from their surroundings. Vaping is seen as something normal and not a threat to their health."

Another cause for concern is the lack of awareness that nicotine addiction is harmful, said Dr Aryana.

"Nicotine affects the receptors in your brain. And when you take a lot of nicotine, it is harder for you to kill the addiction, which will lead to cardiovascular, respiratory and other non-communicable diseases."

She said quitting vaping was as hard as quitting smoking and it was time to stop branding vaping as a "healthier alternative".

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