Exemption of Vape Liquid with Nicotine from Poisons Act a Positive Sign towards Vape Regulations

KUALA LUMPUR, 30th March 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) expresses its
support for the Government in its move to exempt vape liquid with nicotine from the Poisons
Act, adding that this would pave way for vape liquids containing nicotine to be regulated
appropriately instead of being subject to the Poisons Act that is unsuitable for vaping
Malaysian Consumer Choice Center representative, Tarmizi Anuwar says: “The exemption of
vape liquids containing nicotine from the Poisons Act must be complemented with
introduction of laws or amendments to existing laws to enable the products being regulated
in a smart and coherent way. Otherwise, consumers will only continue to access unregulated
Tarmizi also said that with a smart regulatory framework, vapers will have access to
products that are compliant to standards which is a similar practice in other countries that
have regulations on vape products.
“Malaysian consumers have been accessing unregulated products for many years and a
reform is overdue. It is important to ensure the products adhere to fixed quality and safety
standards to protect consumers. In addition, regulations would also enable efforts to
prevent underage vaping which could be done through smart rules and enforcement of age
restrictions at points of sale as well as use of modern age verification technology for online
“Access to regulated vape products also act as an impetus for smokers to switch to less
harmful alternatives. Globally, many countries are seeing a decline in smoking rates due to
vaping and with regulations, more smokers in Malaysia will stop smoking and switch to
vaping products,” said Tarmizi.

On the idea of introducing a Generational End Game (GEG) that was brought into the discussion
by the previous Health Minister, Tarmizi believes that it is difficult to implement in Malaysia
and the Government should establish an independent committee to conduct in-depth studies
as well as assessing the impact before making any decision.

“This is a big decision to be made in the current political and economic climate. In addition,
there are numerous challenges including the problem of an already existing large black
market. Instead of rushing into making this decision, the Government should establish a
comprehensive committee comprising of local and international independent public health
experts, economists, representatives of retail sectors and enforcement agencies to assess
the impact before making a decision. Other countries have been successful in lowering
smoking rates without such a heavy-handed ‘endgame’,” he concluded.

Ottawa’s Concerning Escalation Against Big Tech Threatens Citizen Engagement

Ottawa, ON – This week Canada’s Heritage Committee moved forward a Liberal motion that will require tech companies like Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook) to hand over their internal and external correspondence in regards to Ottawa’s Bill C-18, which would require these companies for pay publishers when news links are posted on their platform.

In response, the Consumer Choice Center’s Toronto based North American Affairs Manager David Clement stated: “C-18 is a big mistake on the part of Ottawa. Not only does the bill have the relationship between tech platforms and publishers backwards, sharing links on social media generates free ad revenue for publishers through page visits, the Bill now threatens Canadian’s access to news. To make matters worse, Ottawa’s demands for all internal and external correspondence sets a chilling precedent for any NGO, union, trade association or charity that opposes a piece of legislation.

“If Ottawa proceeds in demanding internal and external email correspondence from these companies, it would be a significant step backwards for citizen engagement, which is a key part of Canadian democracy. If this precedent is set, a future government could simply deem any non-governmental opposition to a bill as “subversive” and require the disclosure of private emails. If a major trade union opposed a piece of labour reform, a future government could shake the union down by forcing the union to hand over their internal emails with members, their external emails with legal counsel, their emails with members of the public, and even their correspondence with journalists,” states Clement.

“It would appear as though the Liberal party is failing to anticipate the precedents they are setting today can and will be used by their political opponents tomorrow. A future Conservative government could in theory use this precedent to squash opposition from patient advocacy groups, environmental NGOs, or labour unions. A future NDP government could use this precedent to stifle dissent from business associations, taxpayer advocacy groups, and those who represent the voices of small businesses. This is a clear case of incredible government overreach, one that could fundamentally shift the nature of political engagement in Canada for the worse,” concluded Clement.

***CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to david@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

Generational Endgame: The government needs to avoid repeated MySejahtera data leaks

KUALA LUMPUR, 6th March 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) voiced concerns
over the implementation of the generational endgame and urged the government to drop the
generational endgame from the Tobacco and Smoking Products Control Bill.

According to Tarmizi Anuwar, the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center representative, he
believes that the Minister of Health is hasty in wanting to implement generation endgame
and is not consistent with the statement at the beginning that wants to implement it
incrementally and in stages.

It is even more worrying when the Ministry of Health wants to implement it in the next year,
which is 2024. However, until today it is still not clear what mechanism will be used to
ensure that the implementation process is not misused or pose other risks to consumers.
Recently, the Deputy Health Minister, Lukanisman mentioned that the government intends to
make the MySejahtera application as a national public health management tool or digital
public health super apps.

“If the government uses the MySejahtera application or any similar form of application to
implement the generational endgame, this may bring other risks to consumers such as
breach of information or personal data.”

“This is clear in the Auditor General’s Report 2021 Series 2 has revealed that 3 million
Malaysians’ personal data in the MySejahtera application was downloaded by the super-
admin account between 28 October to 31 October 2021,” he said.
In addition, according to Tarmizi, it is more worrying when the Deputy Health Minister’s
answer in parliament contradicts to the response given by the Ministry of Health to the
National Audit Department.

“The statement of consumer details downloaded by the super admin as part of security
measures against attempts to hack the application is contrary to the response given by the
Ministry of Health to the Auditor General’s Department.”

“In the report, the Ministry of Health’s response clearly states that there is an element of
misuse by the super admin account and a police report has been made.”
“The government needs to be more realistic in drafting and implementing laws so as not to
put consumers’ personal data at risk.”

Commenting further on the implementation of the finishing generation in the Tobacco and
Smoking Products Control Bill, he said, “The government needs to drop the generational
endgame and adopt more practical practices; harm reductions such as the United Kingdom
or the Philippines.

“Instead of a full ban these two countries recognize harm reduction as one of the methods
to reduce smoking in their countries.”

In addition, Tarmizi emphasized that the discussion about fundamental rights or individual
freedom in this matter must take into account various opinions and not just one school of
thoughts. He referred to the statement of Tun Zaki, Former Chief Justice, regarding the
generational endgame can be considered to be discriminatory and violate Article 8 of the
Federal Constitution.

“The law must operate equally on all people in fair conditions for all generations and every
group of society. The law cannot give only one advantage to one generation and deprive it
from another.”

Britain’s ban on single-use plastics is bad news for consumers and the environment

British consumers can say goodbye to the comforts of plastic cutlery, plates, and food containers. Having already banned plastic straws, cotton buds, and stirrers, England joins Scotland in outlawing the mass manufacturing and distribution of single-use plastics from October 2023 onwards. Wales is in the process of drafting similar legislation.

The reasons behind the ban are visible to the naked eye. Sadly, everyone in Britain is familiar with the plastic litter and landfills spoiling the countryside.  Add the contribution that plastics make to greenhouse gas emissions and the threat they pose to the well-being of local plants and wildlife, and a ban to contain the problem begins to sound justified.

Emil Panzaru, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, did not find the news welcome: “such prohibitions do more harm than good. In neglecting the dangers posed by substitutes to plastic in their impact assessments, British authorities unwittingly encourage options more damaging to the environment while depriving consumers of their choices.”

After all, it is too easy to see the awfulness of discarded forks and crushed cans gathered in a pile off the side of a road and conclude that plastics are the number one environmental threat. To support this case, the British government cites the use of 2.7 billion plastic cutlery yearly, only 10% of which are recycled, and emphasizes the link between degradable plastics and greenhouse gases.

What the government doesn’t see is the cost of producing alternatives. Once we break down the data behind greenhouse gas emissions and look at land and water consumption, ozone depletion, and resource depletion, we can see that your average consumer must reuse a cotton bag at least 7,000 times to justify its environmental impact. Compared directly, research finds that customers need to use cotton bags 52 times to reach the small footprint of a mundane Tesco carrier. These replacements are thus far more damaging than plastic ever was.

Given these issues, Panzaru suggested the following policies: “the British government needs to go beyond simplistic yet damaging solutions that paint plastic as bad and substitutes as good. If the worry is environmental, policymakers should address plastic use case-by-case, considering the costs that substitutes pose too.”

He concludes: “If the worry is that inconsiderate passers-by are spoiling the countryside, then littering and fly-tipping will not stop once the plastic is gone. Instead, the government needs to impose harsher punishments to deter people from littering in the future. This way, consumers will still be free to choose, and the environment will be better off for it.”

The Ministry of Health Needs to Immediately Take the Recommendations of the Auditor General’s Report

KUALA LUMPUR, 20th February 2023 – The Malaysia Consumer Choice Center (CCC) urges the Ministry of Health of Malaysia to immediately present security measures to protect against the theft of personal data of the MySejahtera application from continuing. 

This follows the Auditor General’s Report 2021 Series 2 which revealed that 3 million Malaysians’ personal data in the MySejahtera application had been downloaded by the super-admin account on 28 October to 31 October 2021. 

According to the representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center, Tarmizi Anuwar urged the Ministry of Health to improve security measures to ensure the safety of consumers and things like this do not happen again.

“The Ministry of Health needs to act immediately to tighten the data security management system and the MySejahtera application as recommended by the Auditor General’s Report to prevent the intrusion of consumer data again. This is important to ensure that consumers are safe,” he said. 

Based on the report, after one year and three months of the police report being made, the government has yet to identify the data fields that have been downloaded and are still under investigation by the authorities.

“The Ministry of Health needs to immediately take this action because after one year and three months, the Ministry still does not know or identify the personal data fields that have been downloaded. This is very worrying because more than 3 million user data is at risk of being misused by those who have downloaded it,” he added. 

According to Tarmizi, the Ministry of Health also needs to take seriously the questionnaire conducted by the audit department regarding the perception of consumers of the MySejahtera application. Based on the survey, a total of 2,699 responses or 49.8 percent disagree that personal data is stored in the My Sejahtera application database. While only 1,168 responses or 21.8 percent agreed and the rest were neutral. 

“Based on the survey conducted by the audit department, consumers are not confident about the level of security of the MySejahtera application and have concerns if their information or personal data is invaded by irresponsible parties.” 

“Although it has entered the endemic phase and this application is not used as before but the consumer’s personal data is still stored in this application.” 

“Therefore, the Ministry of Health needs to take immediate action and explain to public the steps that will be taken to deal with this matter seriously and be responsible in ensuring that this won’t happen again.”

Smart regulation helps prevent underage vaping

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 January 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) agrees with Malaysia’s Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa regarding concerns about the sale of vape products to children.

According to the representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center, Tarmizi Anuwar does not support vaping by youth or children under 18 years of age and suggests that the government quickly implement smart laws to regulate the sale and marketing of vape products. 

“Underage children should not be allowed to buy vape products. In order to avoid or reduce the risk of this happening, the government needs to create a separate law or expand current tobacco regulations for the sale and marketing of vape.”

“There are several steps that the government can take including introducing smart regulations and enforcing strict age restrictions on vaping devices and liquids at the point of sale and using modern age verification technology for online sales.”

“The absence of laws will make it easier for children to obtain vapes from black market activities and illegal trade.”

Elaborating on Dr Zaliha’s statement regarding the classification of nicotine under the Poisons Act 1952, he said, “Nicotine replacement products have already been exempted from the Poisons Act 1952 in October last year. This means that nicotine is no longer considered a non-toxic product.”

“Technically, vape can be considered as a nicotine replacement product because the main purpose is to be used as an aid to quit smoking.”

“However, this is one of the areas of public policy that still need to be improved so that there is no confusion.”

In addition, Tarmizi emphasized that this law is also important in differentiating vape products between responsible adult users and children.

“This law is important to ensure that adult consumers have a legitimate choice to choose products that are less risky and harmful and move towards a healthier lifestyle.”

“The government is also not justified in using this argument to limit access to responsible users because it has not yet been proven about reports or articles that link vaping as a gateway to smoking.”

Based on an analytical survey by Lee, Coombs dan Afolalu (2018) said the actual factors of vaping among youth have yet to be proven. In addition, according to the Royal College of Physicians, reports stating that teenagers who use vaping are at risk of potentially giving birth to a generation affected by nicotine are not based on evidence.

Tick-tock for TikTok in the EU?

TikTok has become one of the most popular apps for consumers in the European Union, giving the Chinese Communist Party-controlled firm more access than ever to data of European citizens.

Given the very clear issues with the spread of TikTok and its connection to the regime, should EU lawmakers consider US-like legislation (barring federal employees from using the app) or even more radical regulation to protect European consumers from a Chinese government platform? 

Zoltán Kész, Consumer Choice Government Affairs Manager, states that there is a real threat of consumers being spied on.

“With more than 230 million TikTok users in the European Union, nearly half the population, we should begin looking into solutions to encourage the governments of member states or even the European Parliament to control the Chinese app’s influence in our institutions.”

“We at Consumer Choice Center believe in free speech and tech innovation, and we also believe in being free from surveillance from despotic regimes. Free trade with private companies is also essential to global trade. Still, when it comes to the communist government ownership in the company, it worries us to see that our liberal democracies may be harmed by the possibility of European consumers’ devices being spied on,” says Kész.

“A new, 21st-century version of liberal democracies must admit that when it is authoritarian regimes involved on one side of the equation, you have to have security measures in place to save our democracies from totalitarians,” concludes Kész.

Biden Administration’s abandonment of Section 230 undermines tech innovation that will harm and disadvantage consumers

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, lawyers from the Biden Administration filed an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case that will undermine future American tech innovation and inevitably harm and disadvantage online consumers.

In Gonzalez v. Google, the Supreme Court is asked to decide whether YouTube can be held liable for content on its platform, and more specifically its algorithms. The argument brought by plaintiffs is that the algorithm that recommends content based on user preference is not covered by Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act, and other legislation, and that Google (YouTube’s parent company) can be held liable.

Such a ruling would have a sweeping impact on Internet freedom of speech and tech innovation based here in the U.S.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, responds:

“In a global race to defend freedom and innovation online, it’s beyond disappointing to see the Biden Administration take a position that undermines Section 230, American digital entrepreneurship, and freedom of speech online,” said Ossowski.

“China and the EU are promoting and subsidizing their tech companies and future start-ups massively while our own officials are trying to kneecap them, whether by antitrust litigation by the Federal Trade Commission, Senate bills to break up tech firms, or general hostility to the growth and innovation that Section 230 has afforded to the benefit of consumers,” he said.

“The Biden Administration’s abandonment of Section 230 is concerning and puts much at risk for consumers online.

“The ability of digital entrepreneurs to offer unique and tailored services to consumers who enjoy them would be severely constrained if a Supreme Court ruling upends our modern understanding of the legal system’s protection of platforms online. Added to that, it threatens free speech on the Internet if platforms have an undue obligation to perform content moderation so as to avoid any and all legal liabilities posed by user-generated content.

“For the sake of consumers and American innovation, we hope that an eventual ruling protects the core of our freedom of speech and association online, and protects citizens’ choices to use the services they want. Thus far, the Biden Administration’s views leave us concerned that this is in peril,” he concluded.

Learn more about the Consumer Choice Center’s campaigns for smart policies on tech innovation.

Orban’s Populism Is Limiting Access for Consumers

From the beginning of this week, the Hungarian Oil Company (MOL) has been unable to provide around 500 independent petrol stations with price-capped fuel. Entire municipalities will be without fuel due to this decision. Another worrying sign is that Shell has already announced a limit on petrol at the stations, where a complete fuel shortage has already become standard. Commenting on the latest developments of Hungarian price caps, Consumer Choice Center’s Government Affairs Manager, Zoltán Kész:

“Consumer Choice Center has already given out warnings regarding the possible effects of the price caps introduced by the Hungarian government. We are now experiencing these effects when we go to fill up our car and find that either there is a limit or, in the worst scenario, we find that you can’t even buy the fuel you want.”

“Not only is it disadvantageous for consumers, but it also has a backlash on distributors forced to take action to limit their losses. Some are closing down, some limit the amount consumers can buy, and some run out of fuel, and you realize it at the pump,” says Kész.

“A year ago, when this measure was introduced, it was clear that the motive behind it was purely political, as the country was about to elect the next government. However, Hungary has seen record-high inflation and rising prices in the past months. For the same political reasons, the government is not changing its price-cap policies, even if the results are clearly seen now. As we predicted at the Consumer Choice Center, shortages and the lack of available services are already happening,” concludes Kész.

Orban’s Price Caps on Food and Fuel will lead to shortages

Budapest, HU: This week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling party announced that the third wave of price caps would be introduced by having a fixed price on potatoes and eggs. Commenting on this move, Consumer Choice Center’s Government Affairs Manager Zoltán Kész:

“Hungarians experienced state-controlled price caps under communism, and we don’t have good memories of that. It leads to shortages that we already see emerging again, the rise of black markets and poverty.”

“In the past year, we have seen petrol stations close down, empty supermarket shelves, and soaring prices of other products. It is very bad for consumers to experience an increase of close to 50% in food prices and to be faced with one of the worst devaluations of the Hungarian currency”, says Kész.

“Fixing the prices of fuel, chicken, or mortgage rates will not help tackle inflation, which is expected to reach 25% by the end of the year. We have the world’s highest VAT with a rate of 27%, but our government still manages to blame everyone else for skyrocketing consumer prices. Before freezing prices at the expense of availability and business closures, we should first bring down our sales taxes by a third. This would massively reduce the burden on consumers”, concludes Kész.

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