Illegal vaping market estimated to be RM2b, says JTI Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 6): The size of the illegal vaping market in Malaysia is estimated to be some RM2 billion, says JT International Bhd (JTI Malaysia).

JTI Malaysia revealed that growth rate of the illegal vaping market has more than doubled in the past one year.

Together with illegal cigarettes, the illegal market now accounts for approximately 70% of the total consumption in Malaysia.

Vaping is technically illegal in Malaysia. All nicotine products fall under the purview of the Poisons Act 1952, and no licence has been issued by Ministry of Health for vaping products in the country.

Speaking at media briefing to share the latest findings of the Illicit Cigarettes Study (ICS), JTI managing director Cormac O'Rourke said laws have been in place since 1952 through the Poisons Act to regulate all products containing nicotine, but the government has once again failed to enforce its own laws leading to a situation where the only vape products available to Malaysian consumers are those sold illegally, which adhere to no standard or control.

"This is very concerning when you consider the extent of the loss to the government. When you factor in illegal vaping, the government stands to lose close to RM6 billion annually in tax revenues," O'Rourke added.

Nevertheless, JTI Malaysia director in corporate affairs and communication Azrani Rustam stressed that the government should focus on enforcing the existing laws, instead of coming out with new ones.

"The problem is when you have no enforcement, and you have more laws and Acts in placed, you are just adding burden to the legal industry, but not tackling the illegal industry," said Azrani.

In July, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said it will draw up a new Act, the Tobacco Act, to supervise the usage of tobacco, vape, electronic cigarettes and shisha.

Prior to this, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said new legislation to regulate electronic cigarettes will be tabled in Parliament at the end of the year or in next year's sitting.

"We know that 90% of vape liquids are laced with nicotine, which is addictive," said Lee, adding a special task force that he headed was drafting the bill as more input was needed from stakeholders.