By Ho Kit Yen | Free Malaysia Today

The High Court is hearing a judicial review application brought by three health groups seeking to quash a decision by Health Minister Dr. Zaliha Mustafa to delist liquid nicotine as a poison.

The High Court was told that Health Minister Dr. Zaliha Mustafa has “endangered” the lives of children by declassifying liquid nicotine as a scheduled poison, enabling it to be sold in the open without regulations.

Lawyer Edmund Bon, representing three health groups, said Zaliha’s decision, made on March 31, had failed to take into consideration the rights of children or the country’s obligations under the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

He pointed out that the reason given by the minister for the declassification was so that the government could levy taxes on the sale of vape products.

“Without being subject to the law, liquid nicotine can be sold publicly to everyone, including children,” Bon said, adding that enforcement officers would be powerless and unable to confiscate such products.

The lawyer said earlier media reports had highlighted that candy laced with nicotine was being sold openly to children.

Bon was representing the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control, Malaysian Green Lung Association, and Voice of the Children, which filed a legal challenge to quash Zaliha’s decision to delist liquid nicotine as a poison.

The NGOs want the court to declare the impugned exemption void.

They claimed Zaliha did not adequately consider the views of the Poisons Board, and failed to engage with it, despite the board having unanimously voted against the exemption.

Bon also told the court that the Dewan Rakyat passed the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2023 Bill last week.

The bill is aimed at banning the sale and purchase of tobacco products, smoking materials, tobacco substitute products, and the provision of any form of service involving smoking to minors.

New bill sufficient to ban minors

Meanwhile, senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, appearing for the Health Minister, told the court that the bill was sufficient to ban children from consuming tobacco products.

“Once the bill is gazetted as a law, there will be no more ‘gaps’ in law over the consumption and sale of vape to the public, especially children,” he added.

Hanir also said Zaliha did not act beyond the scope of her powers under the Poisons Act 1952 when delisting liquid nicotine as a scheduled poison.

He added that the Act did not compel Zaliha to accept the views of the Poisons Board before arriving at her decision.

Justice Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh has fixed Feb 7 next year for the decision.