Health Officials Call for Raids on Malaysian Ecig Shops
Electronic cigarettes have become hugely popular in Malaysia over the past year. In a country steeped in Islamic rules where alcohol is forbidden, people have quickly embraced ecigs as a chance to enjoy a little guilty pleasure. Ecigs have largely been successful thanks to the wide variety of eliquids, combining the enjoyment of nicotine and native cuisine flavors all in one vice. However, Malaysia’s Health Ministry wants to see eliquids eliminated completely and they are cracking down on the growing ecig trend with new aggressive tactics.
Malaysian eliquids are often created to mimic the flavors of the nation’s exotic cuisine. Locally brewed eliquids come in thousands of flavors with top picks including jasmine tea, lychee, and “sirap bandung”, a hot pink drink made with condensed milk and rose water.
At Vape Empire Malaysia, CEO Zachary Oh credits the diversity of eliquids for pushing ecigs over the top in popularity. Companies are investing thousands of dollars to build vapor labs and massive facilities. “It’s not brewed in someone’s backyard,” Oh explained. As the ecig companies grow, so do the flavor options for ecig fans. “They’re challenging themselves to come up with new flavors that people can relate to,” Oh said.
Islamic leaders in Malaysia have already dictated that ecigs are “haram”, or strictly forbidden for religious reasons. Repeated proposals to ban ecigs have been considered by Parliament, but none of them have been written into law yet. Still, the Health Ministry is finding ways to hurt the ecig industry. Most recently, the Health Ministry ordered raids on ecigarette stores across the country. Officials claim the raids are legal because the ecig stores do not have a license to sell nicotine products. Of course, no license is available for ecig sellers even if they tried to apply.
Ecig shop owners are faced with a difficult decision. Do they shut their doors and take business on the black market or risk a raid? One business owner said his shop was raided and he lost 3,000 bottles of eliquid in the ordeal. All together, that’s $32,000 in profits gone.
Lokman Hakim, the deputy health director general, is pushing for intensified raids on ecig shops across the country. “The ministry’s message to the community is do not use e-cigarettes or vaping, as it is harmful to your health in the long-term,” he said. However, Hakim has failed to provide any studies to back his claims.
Do you think the current raids will force ecigs to the underground in Malaysia? Is the government trying to drive smokers to use tobacco so they can gain profits from tax money?