Taxing e-cigarette products is the first step towards better regulation.
In October, Malaysian Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz noted the government’s plan to raise excise taxes on liquid or gel products from e-cigarettes, Including nicotine, in the 2022 budget, according to a foreign news report on 13 November.
It will effectively increase the tax rate from RM0.40 per ml of liquid or gel products to RM1.20 per ml, starting from 1 January 2022.
Most medical professionals agree that this is the right thing to do for the simple reason that it is better to regulate than unregulated.
Just as a sin tax on sugary drinks can reduce society’s risk of contracting non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, it is not uncommon to see a tax on e-cigarette products.
In this case, however, some countries prefer not to tax e-cigarette products to harness the full potential of e-cigarette products and incentivize smokers to switch to less harmful effects.
Dato’ Dr. Zainal Ariffin Omar, President of the Public Health Practitioners Association of Malaysia (PPPKAM), described the decision to extend sin taxes to include e-cigarette products as a laudable plan. At the same time, Dr. Koh Kar Chai, President of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), explained that the tax could not have come sooner.
The bad news is that more taxes make e-cigarette products more expensive for consumers.
Taxes are a pragmatic way to regulate the products, reduce their overall consumption, improve overall public health, and the dividends of generating revenue for the country.
However, the country cannot rely on taxes alone to regulate products.
Dr. Steven Chow Kim Weng, President of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations of Malaysia (FPMPAM), stressed that the country must implement strict regulations before installing this new tax framework.
The association agreed that tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies that encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarette products as a less harmful alternative to their habits must be monitored and researched to implement better regulations in the future.
FPMPAM said that the adoption of THR strategies would reduce the health risks associated with smoking and save Malaysia billions of ringgit in treating smoking-related diseases.
This view was also echoed by local addiction treatment expert Dr. Arifin Fii, who said THR was a practical solution to the smoking epidemic.
The use of e-cigarette products has been recognized globally as the preferred option for people to quit smoking and allow them to transition to less harmful ways of quitting smoking permanently safely.
It, therefore, makes sense that the government should work to regulate and introduce policies to promote THR in Malaysia better, so those e-cigarette products are controlled to ensure that the products meet consumer safety and quality standards.