Asian governments seem set on opposing harm reduction, with widespread raids on Malaysian vape shops and the arrest of two Israeli tourists in Thailand making the headlines. There has also been fresh media excitement over a study that claims to show vaping causes cancer, but the science behind it was immediately condemned by a major cancer charity.
Malaysia cracks down on vape shops
A surprise wave of raids hit every vape shop on Malaysia on Monday, with police and pharma regulators seizing all supplies of nicotine liquids and forcing vendors to hand over the details of their suppliers.
According to INNCO member organisation MOVE Malaysia, the raids had been planned without the knowledge of the Health Ministry or other government departments; it seems the operation was organised by the Pharmaceutical Services agency, with the cooperation of the police. MOVE, which has good contacts with the Health Industry, had no warning that anything was being planned.
Vaping isn’t illegal in Malaysia, but regulations are handled by three separate government ministries and they sometimes have conflicting priorities. Regulation of nicotine liquids is a Health Ministry job, but Pharmaceutical Services have classed nicotine liquids as a poison, and that gives them the authority to seize them.
It’s not clear what will happen next. Malaysia has been steadily tightening the law on vaping, which has had a serious impact on the country’s once-thriving industry. Right now, as far as MOVE know, all nicotine liquids have been removed from shops and Pharmaceutical Services may be planning to raid wholesale suppliers too. If the pharma regulators have decided to eliminate nicotine liquid it’s going to be bad news – not just for vape shops, but for countless former smokers across the country.
Israel issues travel alert over Thailand vaping ban
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has issued a formal travel alert to any of its citizens who plan to visit Thailand, warning them to leave any vapour products at home or risk jail. The move follows last week’s arrest of an elderly Israeli couple at Bangkok airport when one of them was found with an e-cigarette in their luggage. They were released after paying a fine of about $1,200.
When the couple reported the incident to the Israeli consulate, staff looked into it and found that vaping has been against the law in Thailand since 2014, but enforcement of the law has been patchy. It looks like Thailand may be joining other Asian nations in cracking down on vapers, and foreign tourists are apparently not being cut any slack.
Now Jerusalem’s foreign ministry has instructed Israelis not to take e-cigarettes to Thailand. The ministry’s website now says, “The Foreign Ministry recommends that Israelis refrain from entering the country with an electronic cigarette. A person found to be breaking the law may be fined, tried and imprisoned.”
Cancer Research blasts new vaping study
A US study which claims vaping causes similar DNA damage to cigarettes has been criticised by Cancer Research UK. The paper, led by a team from Rochester University in New York state, combined tests on mice with investigations of the effect of eliquid on human cell cultures. Based on this, the researchers concluded that e-cigarette vapour can cause heart disease as well as lung and bladder cancer. However, Cancer Research pointed out that not only do animal and culture tests say very little about effects on actual human organs, but the experiments didn’t include any comparisons with cigarette smoke.
Cancer Research pointed out that, while the new paper says nicotine is responsible for increased cancer risk, no other study has shown that nicotine causes cancer. Cells in a petri dish are much easier to damage than cells in a living body, and they don’t have a body’s repair mechanisms. Unfortunately that vital fact has been missed by the media, who are reporting the study as if it’s a real issue.
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