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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8, 2016

Consumers throughout Malaysia say they support the government’s efforts to stop young people from vaping.

In return, adult smokers want to be able to make their own choices about switching to less harmful products such as e-cigarettes, which have been described by independent experts as “at least 95% safer than smoking”.

This was the finding in a recent opinion poll by Ipsos on behalf of regional consumer advocacy Factasia, in which more than 90% of Malaysian smokers supported discouraging youth from taking up the habit.

“Through tax and regulatory policies, the government should encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes and ensure they are not used by youth,” Factasia said in a statement today.

Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Ahmad Tajudin Jab recently announced restrictions on vaping in government schools, following reports that students were vaping.

Outside Malaysia, age-of-sale regulations in many countries (including the whole of the European Union) effectively prohibit availability of e-cigarettes and vaping liquids to youth.

Leading tobacco control expert Professor Linda Bauld questions the link between youth experimentation with e-cigarettes and addiction of young people to nicotine cigarettes.

Having examined the results of more than 40 in-depth studies across the globe, she said, “we can be relatively confident that we know what is happening in relation to e-cigarette use in young people,” she told Factasia.

Teenagers experiment, she says, but there is no apparent take-up of e-cigarettes among non-smokers in countries that have age-of-sale enforcement.

Bauld, who is head of health policy at Scotland’s University of Stirling and Chair of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK, has worked in tobacco control for some 17 years and two years ago chaired the UK group that produced guidelines on how to reduce harm in the area of tobacco use.

She says there is a need to keep all such materials, including e-cigarettes, away from under-age potential users.

Age-of-sale laws are important, even if they can be difficult to enforce in all jurisdictions, she says.

But Bauld has no concerns that young people are taking up vaping in Europe.

“E-cigarettes at the moment are not creating a new generation of what some people describe as ‘nicotine addicts’.”

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