KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 – The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) is urging Malaysian policymakers to take immediate action to address the growing crisis of EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury). As EVALI-related cases and deaths persist, CAP is questioning whether policymakers will allow this deadly epidemic to continue unabated. The first reported case of EVALI in Labuan occurred in November 2019 when a teenager was admitted to the Labuan Nucleus Hospital with severe internal lung damage suspected to be caused by vaping.
This incident raised alarms about the potential dangers of vaping among the youth. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking EVALI cases in October 2019. By February 2020, there were already more than 2,807 reported cases and 68 deaths attributed to this condition. Despite the global attention, EVALI remains a potent threat. On 17 April 2023, Medscape published an article titled “Forgotten but Not Gone: EVALI Epidemic Continues,” highlighting the persistent danger of EVALI.
It pointed out that for many, EVALI may seem like a distant memory due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the threat is still very real. Recently, in a parliamentary session, the Minister of Health, Dr. Zaliha Mustafa, disclosed that a 16-year-old girl, with a three-year history of vaping, died on June 5. Her cause of death was identified as “acute heart failure with pulmonary embolism in a probable EVALI case.” Within the first two weeks of June 2023, the Ministry of Health (MoH) received reports of 17 EVALI cases.
These incidents highlight the urgency of addressing the issue and implementing preventive measures. Dr. Zaliha also drew attention to a case of nicotine poisoning involving a two-year-old child who now suffers from neurological problems. This case is just one example of a larger problem, as the National Poison Centre based at Universiti Sains Malaysia reported 66 calls related to vaping-related poisoning between January 2015 and August 2022. Shockingly, most of these cases involved children aged between one and four years old, with the youngest victim being only four months old.
In light of these alarming developments, CAP expressed its disappointment that the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, a crucial piece of legislation, has been referred to the Health parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) for further study. This delay in passing the bill could inadvertently expose more underage children to vaping and increase the risk of accidental nicotine poisoning. CAP emphasizes that policymakers who fail to act swiftly will bear the responsibility for the consequences, with the blood of EVALI victims on their hands.
As EVALI continues to claim lives and endanger the health of Malaysians, it is imperative that policymakers prioritize the well-being of the population and take immediate action to curb the vaping epidemic. The urgency of the situation demands decisive measures to protect the youth and ensure the safety of all Malaysians.