Malaysian Consumer Choice Centre: Vape product display ban harms public health efforts

THE Malaysian Consumer Choice Centre (MCCC) has highlighted significant public health concerns related to the possibility of a ban on the display of vaping products.

While well-intentioned, the regulation may inadvertently undermine efforts to reduce smoking-related harms and improve public health outcomes in Malaysia, according to MCCC’s country representative Tarmizi Anuwar.

“By banning the display of vape products, the government risks reducing awareness about less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes,” Tarmizi pointed out in a media statement.

“Vaping is widely recognised as a safer option compared to smoking, hence restricting its visibility can prevent smokers from learning about these alternatives. This could slow down the vital transition from smoking to vaping, a key harm reduction strategy.”

Tarmizi further highlighted that visual exposure to vape products in retail environments plays a crucial role in encouraging smokers to consider switching.

“When vape products are not displayed, smokers may miss out on opportunities to explore and understand these alternatives, thus continuing their more harmful smoking habits.”

Tarmizi Anuwar

Moreover, the MCCC also fears that the display ban could contribute to the stigmatisation of vaping.

“Equating vaping with illegal or highly dangerous substances through such bans can discourage smokers from considering it as a legitimate cessation tool,” opined Tarmizi. “This is counter-productive to public health efforts aimed at reducing smoking rates.”

Likewise, new users who could benefit from switching to vaping might face additional challenges.

“Without the ability to see and compare vape products, individuals might find it difficult to even start their journey towards quitting smoking, thereby missing out on potentially life-saving alternatives,” explained Tarmizi.

Additionally, he expressed concern of potential rise in black market activity. “Restricting the legal display of vape products can drive consumers towards unregulated and potentially dangerous alternatives,” cautioned Tarmizi.

“This underground market growth poses significant risks as these products may not adhere to safety standards, increasing the likelihood of exposure to harmful substances.”

Beyond that, the economic impact on the legal sector of specialised vape shops cannot be ignored, according to Tarmizi.

“These businesses rely on product displays to attract and inform customers. Banning displays could negatively affect their operations, reducing their ability to serve as resources for smokers seeking alternatives,” he noted.

In conclusion, MCCC urged the Malaysian government to re-consider its display ban on vape-related products.

“We call on policymakers to consider the broader implications on public health and to seek balanced regulations that protect youth while enabling adult smokers to access and learn about safer alternatives. Harm reduction and informed choice should be at the forefront of our public health strategy,” he added. – June 11, 2024

Main image credit: AFP

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