Lucy Sebli

Addiction is a disease that makes you too selfish to see the havoc you created or care about the people whose lives you have shattered.

– HealthyPlace.com

I asked my students about what they thought of the non-smoking ban at the eateries in Malaysia, and most of them, especially male students, were not very enthusiastic about the news. Female students, on the other hand, welcomed that policy with joy and said, “It is about time!”

Under the amended Regulations (Control of Tobacco Products (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2015, reg. 2, P.U. (A) 304.), “smoking” is defined as “inhaling and expelling the smoke or vapour of any tobacco product and includes the holding of or control over any ignited heated or vaporised tobacco product.”

Therefore, vaping is also included in the ban.

In Sarawak, the non-smoking ban at the eateries and public places came into force since January 1. Consequently, the restaurants and eating places are required to display non-smoking signage at their restaurants, for failure to do so, will result in fines up to RM3,000 or a jail term of six months.

However, any restaurant that wishes to designate a smoking spot at an area not less than three metres away from the nearest table where food is being served can apply for a licence with the approval of the local authorities.

The federal Ministry of Housing and Local Government said early this year that all 155 local authorities across the country could build designated smoking areas in selected public places, especially at food courts.

This licence is to satisfy the smokers and show that the government is concerned with their plight.

The response to this has been somewhat mixed. Some considered this decision as a step backwards in anti-smoking efforts, while others called it nonsense and a waste of taxpayers’ money to designate a smoking zone. 

In addition to the smoking ban in public places and eateries, Malaysia also enforced a law that bans the use of all smoking products, including electronic cigarettes and vaporisers, among minors and prohibits their promotion and advertising on January 1.

However, there is no specific regulation governing the sale and use of non-nicotine vaporisers and e-cigarettes, despite the sale of vaporiser liquids containing nicotine has been banned since 2015.

In this regard, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is also considering a complete ban on the new vaping devices after US authorities released a report citing 29 deaths and 1,299 cases of respiratory illnesses linked to the use of e-cigarettes and vaporisers in October last.

However, the ministry asserted that it has to conduct detailed studies before making any decision to ban vaping in this country.

Furthermore, very few cases related to vaping have been identified and at the same time, it was also quite challenging to establish substantial connection between vaping and the patients who vaped.

Compared to vaping, the effects of smoking have been studied as early as the 1800s, while research into vaping was undertaken recently. Hence, there isn’t sufficient data available on the effects of the stuff. 

The UK National Health Service (NHS) also revealed last year that harm or risk caused by vaping is extremely low, especially to those around the vapers. In other words, there isn’t strong evidence to suggest that vaping has a second-hand smoking effect compared with tobacco smoke. 

A lot is still not known about the effects of vaping. Initially, the creation of vaping was to help smokers to quit smoking, not as a replacement for cigarettes.

E-cigarettes and vapes are different. An e-cigarette is usually shaped like a pen and filled with nicotine, while vapes are handheld devices that may not have nicotine in its e-juice or oil.

The problem with vape is in the safeness of its e-juice. Evidence also has proven that vapour from commercially produced nicotine vaping products does contain potentially harmful chemicals such as metals, acrolein and formaldehyde.

Although the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke are at much higher levels, the risk posed to those who vaped is still very much present. 

In any case, whatever you decide, either to smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vape, think of the long-term consequences it will have on your health.

I know it is not easy to quit cold turkey, but with strong support and willpower, I believe you can do it.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.