Malaysia's health Ministry will decide whether to ban e-cigarettes and shisha based on a report on their effects which is to be produced by the end of August.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry would study the possibility of prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to children instead of a blanket ban.
However, this is still subject to the recommendations by a committee set up to look into scientific evidence on the harmful effects of shisha (or water-pipe smoking) and e-cigarettes.
“The committee will also verify claims that e-cigarettes may help smokers to quit the habit,” he said.
Noor Hisham said the ministry would then decide based on the scientific report on whether to ban or regulate the sale and use of the two products.
“Meanwhile, we welcome the fatwa [suggestion by religious authorities] issued by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department [Jakim] to ban shisha, which is in tandem with the ministry’s initiative on tobacco control,” he said.
The Consumers Association of Penang has reportedly urged the ministry to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to prevent youths from getting hooked, as there was no age limit on the sale of the product.
The fatwa committee of the National Council for Islamic Affairs declared smoking shisha as forbidden for Muslims.
Noor Hisham said about 123,000 Malaysians aged 15 and above smoked shisha, while approximately 164,000 adults smoked e-cigarettes, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2011.
“The number of shisha and e-cigarette smokers may have increased in recent years due to the two products gaining popularity, especially among young adults, which is something we view with concern,” he said.