In the latest in its series of opinion polls of adult smokers across Asia, factasia.org has found that adult smokers in Malaysia are overwhelmingly calling for e-cigarettes to be regulated properly and more widely available.
Most smokers (83 percent) see e-cigarettes as a “positive alternative” to tobacco products. Even more – 87 percent – would consider switching to e-cigarettes “if they were legal, met quality and safety standards, and were conveniently available”.
The survey was commissioned by factasia.org to gauge consumers’ views on safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes, such as e-cigarettes that contain nicotine – products that do not burn tobacco and therefore do not produce the potentially dangerous particulates found with cigarettes.
Malaysia has a growing industry in the manufacture of e-cigarettes, which eminent international public health and tobacco control experts believe can offer a far less harmful alternative for smokers who either find it difficult to quit or who wish to continue to use nicotine products. More than two-thirds of Malaysian smokers surveyed said they have used e-cigarettes and of these, 75 percent said they do so primarily “as an alternative to regular cigarettes”.
Smokers are almost unanimous in believing they should have a right to access information about less harmful products (96 percent agree), while more than 90 percent agree that: “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.”
Currently there are no recognised standards or quality regulations and the factasia.org survey highlights consumers’ concerns about the need for efficient regulation of the products, as well as their availability. Already some 26 percent of e-cigarette users (‘vapers’, as they are often called) obtain their e-cigarette products online and 75 percent of all adult smokers say they “will consider purchasing e-cigarettes from other channels or countries” if the government were to restrict their availability in Malaysia.
factasia carried out the survey – conducted by leading global polling company Ipsos in May-June 2015 – “in order to gain a better understanding of Asian consumers’ demand for less harmful alternatives to tobacco,” said Heneage Mitchell, co-founder of factasia.org.
“There is a clear need for action in Malaysia to regularise the industry and to establish quality standards, tax the products rationally and ensure they are made available only to adults, like many other consumer items,” said Mr Mitchell. “The government here has a great opportunity to ensure there is no repeat of the situation that has arisen with conventional tobacco products, where a third of total consumption in Malaysia is illicit – smuggled – product.”
E-cigarettes, described as “more than 95 percent safer than smoking” by a top global public health expert*, are an established alternative to smoking in the European Union (including the UK where there are some 2.7 million adult ‘vapers’) and the US.
Recent reports have put the number of adult vapers in Malaysia at between 250,000 and one million. “We agree that the use of e-cigarettes should be restricted to adults,” said Mr Mitchell. “But they are here to stay and consumers deserve the protection of regulation and standards that they expect in other product sectors. Our survey shows they are calling for positive government action.”