Can you vape in a gym?

Many changes in Malaysia have caught my attention following my return from my studies overseas.

One of them is the unusual sight of people inhaling through a powerbank lookalike device and blowing out clouds that smell like fruits.

Ah, vaping.

Apparently vaping has become a trend among urbanites in recent years, especially in KL. My research tells me that Malaysia is actually the second largest vaping country, just behind the United States of America. I guess there’s another thing which we can proudly announce that we are number one in Asia, besides obesity!

Well, initially I was fine with this — it’s a free country after all right?

Moreover the Ministry of Health had agreed that e-cigarettes wouldn’t be banned because of the benefits it may bring. Vaping could potentially convert smokers from consuming tobacco based cigarettes.

Of course there’s a ton of research and debate which have been done, and are still being done, on the benefits of vaping as well as its potential negative implications.

On the one hand we have arguments such as vaping is cheaper and uses less harmful chemicals than tobacco cigarettes. On the other hand we have arguments saying the child-friendly flavours and the perception of vaping being less harmful have led teenagers to pick up smoking when they otherwise wouldn’t.

Well, that’s a can of worms I do not wish to open.

Nonetheless, I decided to write something about this vaping trend as a result of a sight that disturbed me. It was during one evening when I was working out in a gym that I saw a lady actually vaping in the gym! While working out!

I mean come on, that’s rather distracting for those who are trying to go into beastmode isn’t it?

So I thought I had to find out what are the rules, not on the legality of e-cigs generally, but simply on vaping indoors.

What provisions do we currently have on this? Can I punch a person in the face when I see him vaping in public indoor spaces, like in the cinema, restaurant, or in the train?

The simple answer to that is…

There are currently no laws

So yes, although I hate to admit this, it is actually legal for a person to vape indoors.

Malaysia has its legal provisions for smoking tobacco indoors under the Food Act 1983. The Act permits the Ministry of Health to set regulations on the use of tobacco products which includes its advertisement, packaging and so on. Among them are Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2013, which provides for regulations we are familiar with such as the ban on advertisement, prohibition of sales to minors, as well as prohibition of consumption at certain areas.

However do they apply to vaping? The answer is No.

The parent act of these regulations — the Food Act 1983 — defines “tobacco product” as “tobacco, cigarette or cigar or any other form of tobacco including any mixture containing tobacco which is designed for human consumption…” and “tobacco” as any product obtained from the leaf of the Nicotiana Tobacum plant or other related plants and includes any tobacco product.

So since vaporisers do not use tobacco at all, they don’t fall into the ambit of these regulations. To put it simply, these laws and regulations simply do not apply to vaporisers.

Therefore, we do not at the moment have any laws regulating vaporisers and vaping.

Do you know what this means? Quiz time! Are the following legal?

  1. Vaping at public indoor spaces, such as in cinemas and shopping malls? LEGAL
  2. Selling vaporisers and e-liquids to a 14-year old? LEGAL
  3. Advertising vaporisers in the mass media? LEGAL

…well at least for now.

There’s nothing we can do really if we one day find ourselves being attacked by a cloud of vapor that smells like strawberries when we are trying to enjoy our steak, our movie, or our workout.

Things looking gloomy for anti-vapers eh? Well, all is not lost. If it’s a private premise, such as a restaurant, the restaurant owners can set rules against vaping inside the restaurant premises, and can to eject those who don’t comply.

This however may mean — (1) less business; and (2) legal action only lies in a civil suit, and those who don’t comply cannot be prosecuted like those who smoke cigarettes in prohibited areas. *Insert frown emoticon*

However, should there be regulations though? At least on vaping indoors?

My personal opinion is yes, though there are forces in the argument for the negative.

For example, one main reason for the ban on smoking indoors was the risk of fire hazards, which obviously vaping wouldn’t have as it doesn’t use fire at all.

Secondly, another reason is the harmful effects of second hand smoke that tobacco smokers produce, which again research has shown that the vapor that vapers produce have very minimal harmful components.

But why yes?

Because to me vaping indoors is simply inconsiderate. It disregards the feeling of others — those who may not agree with you that the odour your vaping creates as fragrant, and those who do not want their children to inhale your secondhand ‘smoke’.

After all if one can be prohibited from eating char kuey teow in the LRT, one should also not be allowed to vape in the LRT, or other closed public compounds for that matter.

I look forward to the day clear regulations are provided, which obviously are urgently needed considering the booming industry.

Meanwhile, I just hope vapers could be more sensible and considerate.

Don’t vape where you can’t smoke, pretty please?

Hello there! I am Louis Liaw, a recent law graduate from Cardiff University. I am commencing my pupillage in November 2015, and therefore am excited and anxious at the same time towards this new chapter...

7 replies on “Vaping in Malaysia – The Laws You Need to Know! (or not…)”

  1. Just thinking, shouldn't the nicotine contained in e-liquid be able to fall within the meaning of the words "any product obtained from the leaf of the Nicotiana Tobacum plant"?

    I don't know enough, so I may be wrong.

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