Malaysia's anti-smoking Bill takes aim at secondhand vaping

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's anti-smoking Bill is set to tackle the alarming issue of secondhand vaping, a peril that health experts deem severe and urgent.

They believe that the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 is comprehensive enough to safeguard non-smokers and vulnerable groups.

Health Ministry Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Noraryana Hassan said the bill provides legislative authority to regulate and control electronic cigarette sales and consumption where stringent restrictions on availability, advertising, and consumption will be implemented.

"This comes with the emphasis on enforcing regulations to protect public spaces," she said, adding that the Ministry of Health is working at establishing a list of allowed and disallowed ingredients to ensure consumer safety.

Dr Noraryana also added that the bill aims not only to regulate products but also to protect non-smokers, especially women, pregnant ladies, and children.

"In this bill, we have included the definition of smoking to cover both smoke and vapours, aligning with Article 8 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHFCTC)," she said.

She said the implications of second hand vaping cannot be ignored any longer as the health risks of secondhand vaping are akin to passive smoking.

Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur Lung Centre Head Dr Helmy Haja Mydinnsaid there is growing evidence to document the harmful effects of secondhand vaping.

He said recent studies have linked vaping to increased fine particles in the air, raising concerns about cardiovascular and lung damage.

"Other studies have shown that secondhand vaping increases the risk for bronchitis and difficulty breathing, especially among young adults who have never smoked or vaped themselves," said Dr Helmy.

"Vaping is still in its infancy, and even as we begin to build up the evidence base for short-term impact, it is likely that we will see increasing evidence of health damage for longer term use," he added.

Health expert Prof Dr Mohamad Haniki Nik Mohamed echoed concerns over the harmful compounds present in electronic cigarette vapour.

He said, among the common harmful compounds detected include aldehydes such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein; volatile organic compounds; aerosol particles; and heavy metals.

"Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are known to be carcinogenic and potentially carcinogenic, respectively, under the International Agency for Research on Cancer classification, and acrolein is known to be a toxic, strong irritant and hazardous air pollutant," said Dr Haniki.

He said device design and power output, e-liquid compositions, and puffing profile are among the factors that also contribute to vaping health hazards.

The International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) Sustainable Smoke-free Campus Community Flagship Head also stressed the need for public involvement in enforcing no-smoking and vaping areas.

"We need to assist enforcement of no smoking and vaping areas by reporting to the MOH people who flaunt the law.

"The public can report this via WhatsApp to the MOH at 010-860 8949. With more reports received, such places will become hotspots for targeted actions by enforcement officers.

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