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GEG Law: A Death Sentence For Bumiputera Businesses?

GEG Law: A Death Sentence For Bumiputera Businesses?

Experts are concerned that the government’s plan to introduce the GEG policy may spell certain doom for many.

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Vaping is a booming industry in Malaysia valued at RM3.48 billion with millions of users and businesses involved in producing, distributing, and retailing a variety of devices and e-liquids.

For many, vaping provided a less harmful alternative to smoking cigarettes and paved the way for them to eventually kick the habit. At the same time, others rode the vapourwave and made their livelihoods creating brands, products, and services to cater to the market.

In 2022, it was reported that there were around 1.4 million vape users in the country and that the industry provided employment for about 31,500 people.

However, industry experts are concerned that the government’s plan to introduce the Generational Endgame (GEG) policy which aims to ban anyone born after 2007 from having access to vaping products, may spell certain doom for many.

Bad for business

(Credit: FabrikaPhoto via Envato Elements)

Malaysian Vape Chamber of Commerce (MVCC) Secretary General Ridhwan Rosli explained that banning vape products would be detrimental to the economy.

“Apart from contributing significantly to the country’s economy and helping smokers to quit cigarette smoking, it has also facilitated the growth of local entrepreneurs and created multiple job opportunities throughout the entire supply chain, directly and indirectly,” he said alluding to the fact that many in the vape business are from the Bumiputera community.

It is estimated that all Bumiputera vape retailers will be forced to close their businesses eventually, as their potential customers will no longer be allowed to purchase or consume any vape products.

MVCC Secretary General Ridhwan Rosli via New Straits Times.

Ridhwan said that the demand for vape had created a thriving industry in the country and that a ban would only force people to seek out other alternatives.

This, in turn, will create a market with unregulated products where the quality and safety of products are not guaranteed. And it will also undermine the efforts of responsible and compliant businesses within the vaping industry.

MVCC Secretary General Ridhwan Rosli via New Straits Times.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Retail Electronic Cigarette Association President Datuk Adzwan Ab Manas chimed in to say that a ban would lead to losses in government tax revenue and impact the rakyat’s income.

The concerns about tax revenue losses are valid due to the proposed ban on vape products. It isn’t just about tax revenue losses but also the industry where jobs and businesses could be impacted if the government decides to ban vape products as part of the GEG policy.

Malaysia Retail Electronic Cigarette Association President Datuk Adzwan Ab Manas via New Straits Times.

He encouraged the government to work out a balanced approach and introduce rules and regulations that would benefit the country.

Our recommendations to the government have always been for the introduction of a sensible regulatory framework that meets the needs of adult consumers, protects them with safety standards in place and prevents underage from accessing the products.

Malaysia Retail Electronic Cigarette Association President Datuk Adzwan Ab Manas via New Straits Times.

Despite the government’s move that effectively legalised vaping earlier this year with the introduction of taxes for e-liquids and gels, Malaysia still lacked a number of rules controlling its use, including;

  • No restrictions on the sale of vape products to people below the age of 18.
  • No prohibitions on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of vape products.
  • No regulations on the nicotine content in vapes, and standard safety and quality control practices.

Unforeseen consequences

The GEG could also bring about unforeseen consequences in Malaysia. Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia (AMAM) President Dr Steven Chow warned that prohibitory practices that ban vaping may in fact backfire on Malaysia’s efforts to become a smoke-free nation.

Dr Chow noted that medically regulated vape products can help mitigate the risks associated with smoking traditional cigarettes and should be lauded as a way to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the country.

“It is clear from previous experiences in Malaysia that using prohibitive measures such as the GEG to counter an addiction will not work,” he said while advocating for the acceptance of vaping as a way to effectively counter Malaysia’s smoking epidemic and break the cycle of addiction.

Harm reduction strategies should also include providing smokers with access to alternative nicotine delivery systems that are less harmful than combustible cigarettes.

AMAM President Dr Steven Chow via Focus Malaysia.

The same was said by Universiti Malaya Centre for Addiction Science Studies (UMCAS) Advisor Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil who has determined that tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies were a proven method to get people to quit smoking.

Globally, harm reduction strategies have demonstrated remarkable success in reducing the harm caused by tobacco use.

UMCAS Advisor Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil.

He explained that, in other parts of the world, vaping is widely considered an effective way to help smokers move away from their addiction. 

Countries like the United Kingdom (UK) and New Zealand have embraced these approaches and have seen a decline in smoking rates as smokers transition to less harmful alternatives such as vape.

UMCAS advisor Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil.

Since adopting a mix of policies to dissuade people from smoking, the proportion of smokers in the UK dropped by 7% in 2022 compared to what it was 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, New Zealand saw the number of smokers fell to just 8% — half of what it was a decade ago.

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