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Much Ado about the E-cigarette

April 28, 2022   Return

In November 2015, the Sultan of Johor called for a ban of the sales of e-cigarettes and its associated products from January this year, a call accepted and respected by the Ministry of Health. More states such as Terengganu followed suit or were considering a ban. Meanwhile, we read accounts of young children getting hooked on the vape habit, and on 16 December 2015, newspapers reported of a man in Kelantan being charged at the Kota Bharu Magistrate’s Court with unlawful possession of nicotine under the Poisons Act 1952 (he was selling vape products at his stall in a pasar malam). 

These are just the tip of the iceberg where media coverage of e-cigarettes is concerned over the last few months.

E-cigarette, vape, syabu … What’s the difference?

E-cigarettes certainly cause many policy makers and concerned citizens to light up the news feed, and the above words often come up in these news items. Some people assume that they are all the same, but they actually aren’t. Let us take a look at what they are.


The ‘E’ stands for ‘electronic’. An e-cigarette is a type of battery-powered vaporiser device designed to resemble a cigarette. The vials of fluids used with e-cigarettes are commonly called ‘e-liquid’, ‘e-juice’ or ‘vape juice’. When the vial is attached to the e-cigarette, the heating element in the device converts the fluid into vapours that will then be inhaled by the user.


 ‘Vape’ is short for ‘vaporiser’, It refers to the kind of device that resembles tubes or pens while the smaller and thinner e-cigarettes resemble the conventional cigarette more. These days, however, ‘vape’ and ‘e-cigarette’ are frequently used interchangeably, and the vapes available locally are not very different from e-cigarettes in terms of function.


The flavours of e-liquid are very easily customisable, hence allowing users to enjoy an assortment of new tastes. The base is often a substance called propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine – they are called ‘carrier fluid’. Flavourings and nicotine are then added to the base. There is a variety of flavours available in Malaysia, even sirap bandung and teh tarik! There are also nicotine-free e-liquids on sale.


This is a local name for the very addictive stimulant drug called methamphetamine. It is also known as ‘ice’, ‘meth’, and many other names. Often abused to improve one’s mood and sexual performance, long-term abuse of this drug can cause damage to the brain and the nerves. Syabu comes into the picture because there are e-cigarette users who would add this drug into their e-liquids. Other recreational drugs that often find their way into e-liquids include cannabis or marijuana (ganja) and kratom (ketum, which can exert effects similar to those of morphine). 

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