Kuala Lumpur, 03 July 2023 — News of an application for judicial review of the Health Minister’s 31 March order has been filed with the Kuala Lumpur High Court, is a wake-up call for the Government to review its priorities regarding tobacco control and its continued willingness to see vape and e-cigarettes to be completely unregulated.
“The decision by the plaintiffs to file this lawsuit against the Health Minister and the Government of Malaysia was clearly not taken lightly. They intend to prevent and reduce the possible harm caused as a result of the earlier decision to remove liquid and gel nicotine used in vape and e-cigarettes from the list of controlled substances under the Poisons Act 1952,” said Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy when commenting on this development.
“This case comes as a shock, but not a surprise. It comes after numerous appeals, attempts at engagement and consultation, and frustration of public health experts and child advocates, at the seemingly lack of concern and progress in addressing the unregulated and uncontrolled state of vape and e-cigarettes containing nicotine. An act of last resort to get the Government to take immediate measures to prevent harm, especially with increasing reports of high nicotine and marijuana-laced vape use among young people, and even children. It is also a demand for accountability.”
“This judicial review places the Government both at a crossroads, and an opportunity. Should the government defend its decision to exempt this type of nicotine from the scheduled list, or reverse the Order pending passage of the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 in Parliament? Maintaining the current status could place the Government in an impossible position: defending nicotine vape and e-cigarettes despite the Ministry of Health’s own warning that these products constitute a ‘public health threat’,” Azrul pointed out.
“On 14 April 1994, the heads of the seven largest American tobacco companies spoke before the US Congress. They refused to admit that they knew cigarettes and nicotine were addictive. If the Government is not clear or decisive in this lawsuit regarding nicotine vape, Malaysia could find itself on the wrong side of history and have a similar infamous moment,” he emphasised.
“This public interest case also presents an opportunity to consider debating and passing the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 in the immediate future. Unfortunately, many stakeholders perceive that the government may not actually be interested in passing this piece of health legislation. Its decision in the last Dewan Rakyat sitting to unilaterally refer the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 to the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Health came as a shock for many, including Members of Parliament, who expected at least a debate on the Bill.”