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The Rise Of Vaping − Is It Really A Substitute For Smoking Cigarettes?

If you are reading this, you are either probably a ‘vaper’, smoker, or someone who wants to know what vaping is all about. Thankfully, this article is meant for all three.

Lately, the vaping craze is growing by the day in our country, instantly becoming the new ‘in thing’ since it was introduced about five years ago.

Guess it comes as no surprise as Ibrahim Mohamed, co-organiser of the recent Vaporizer Convention Kuala Lumpur 2015, says we are after all the second largest in the world after the United States, and the biggest in Asia.

It has also gained notoriety, from police catching marijuana-filled vapers resulting to the Federal Territories Office of the Mufti issuing an ‘Irsyad fatwa’ claiming that vaping is ‘haram’ (forbidden).

An ‘Irsyad’, issued by the Office of the Mufti, serves as a religious guidance and aims to address various issues related to Islamic perspectives and practises in relation to modern times.

According to Federal Territories Mufti, Datuk Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri who explained via his Facebook and the Mufti website, vaping is forbidden because “it has been the most popular reason as a substitute for cigarettes”.

 

IRSYAD FATWA KE-63: HUKUM PENGGUNAAN ROKOK ELEKTRONIK / VAPORHukum Penggunaan Rokok Elektronik / VaporAlhamdulillah,...

Posted by Mufti Wilayah Persekutuan on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Mufti mentioned that because of this sugarcoating vaping as ‘halal’, it has led to widespread use of electronic cigarettes despite specialists stating it being more detrimental to health than cigarettes.

“This has been considered a very strong foundation for (the ruling), as its ‘mafsadah’ (harmfulness) was indisputable, as recognised by experts and authoritative bodies.”

He also stated that vaping imitated non-Islamic culture and carried an undignified image besides being a false method that helped smokers cease smoking.

“This assumption deviates from the basic reasoning as it also contains tobacco and nicotine, which are substances that can be intoxicating and harmful to human health,” he wrote.

With all the debate about a possible ban of vaping or e-cigarettes by our Healthy Ministry, and the worries surrounding the issue of smokers substituting cigarettes for vape to quit their smoking habits, we wondered if it is all just a misconception altogether.

So, we took a trip down to the Vape Shoppe at Sri Hartamas for a chit-chat to understand more about the vaping industry here, before asking some tough questions to an Ustaz from the Federal Territories Mufti’s Office on its religious legalities.

Understanding What Is A Vaping Device?

While many vapers are seen vaping outdoors, and sometimes even indoors, we took time to understand more about what exactly is the vape, and why it seems to be a fad among smokers and non-smokers alike.

Edmund, a vape expert who works at the Vappe Shoppe, on behalf of his owners tells us, “A vaping device is an electronical device that releases water vapour. For those looking for one, you can choose from various vaping devices that cater to your budget.

“If you want to stop smoking, you usually start with a starter kit that provides a decent amount of vapour, which is similar to a cigarette. It doesn’t however smell like a cigarette, and there are flavours to choose from – which vary from fruity to creamy.

“What constitutes the flavours are its fuel substances − there's PG, VG, sweetener and flavouring, also nicotine.

“PG is propylene glycol and VG is vegetable oil. PG is a substance that enhances the flavour. VG is what produces the vape. There are artificial and organic sweeteners, and even nicotine. Flavours are either imported or made locally.

“When purchasing flavours, I will not recommend anyone buying the ones being sold by the roadside, as the contents of ingredients are unknown and might not be safe for smoking.

“But for flavours purchased in shops like ours, the ingredients are listed, and they are also guaranteed in quality. One thing we must look for is quality and safety,” he emphasised.

Since there were claims that vaping is a cheaper alternative than cigarettes, we asked the expert how far true is this.

“There are various brands of vape. The American brands would usually cost around RM960 as compared to the ones made in China, which retail as low as RM68 for a basic starter kit. This model here costs RM 300, despite being made in China.

“The device is relatively small but comes with a rechargeable battery which makes the bulk of its size, and its battery life depends on how much you vape. It could last up to one day if you chain smoke.

“For vapers who like ‘cloud chasing’ (producing a lot of vapour), this will require a bigger tank. Some people love to use the vape for aesthetic reasons.

“As for it being a cheaper alternative, I do believe so. For smokers who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, one week’s worth of cigarettes can cost them at least RM200. So, if you save RM400, you can purchase a decent vaping kit.

“10ml bottle of flavour costs RM15 and lasts one to two days, a bigger bottle lasts for two weeks. Quality ones in 30ml bottles cost RM60-RM100, and lasts around two weeks. The coil (kanthal wire) costs RM12 and it has to be replaced when it runs out. You save quite a lot actually!” he claims.

The Difference Between Cigarettes And Vapes?

Edmund continues giving us more insight on how smoking is different from vaping.

“It doesn’t really burn. There’s a cotton and a coil that’s intertwined. We use organic cotton and there is no bleaching process involved, so it’s pure. It skips these chemical processes to prevent from any unhealthy things as a filter.

“Unlike a cigarette stick which you throw once it burns out, the vape has the coil which needs to be replaced with at least two weeks. Once there’s a burnt taste while vaping, that’s when you should renew the coil. Some, even make their own wires," he shared and then demonstrated to us.

This is what happens when you burn the kanthal wire:

“This type of ‘wet, saturated’ cotton, when burnt by the coil releases only water vapour. It doesn’t get burnt or get black, unless it's dry. So, make sure the cotton is wet when you are vaping, if not, add water.

“That’s the best part about vaping - there’s no smoke nor ashes, just water. Some say it’s bad, others say it's better than cigarettes.

“All I want to say is that vaping only has four substances inside, as mentioned earlier, the PG/VG, sweetener, flavouring, compared with cigarettes that contain 4,000 chemicals inside.

“Vaping doesn’t contain any carbon, as oppose to the carbon and the tar that cigarettes produce, which are the ones that activate the cancer cells. Since vaping uses only water vapour, it doesn’t contain any of those,” he shared.

With this being said, do smokers really resort to vaping to quit smoking? Edmund explains how vaping might just help them.

“It is common that about 70-80 per cent of people who vape were smokers in the past. They either want to quit smoking, or save money due to the increase in cigarette prices.

“When people take in nicotine, it gives a ‘throat kick’. It’s a substance that makes you addicted, similar to caffeine where it stimulates your brain.

“But for heavy smokers who want to start vaping and quit smoking, there are different levels of nicotine for intake, from 6 mg, 8 mg, 12 mg, and up till 26 mg. Usually, we will advise them to take a starter kit that contains 12 mg of nicotine.

“This is very strong, so they won’t have to take so many puffs − only five to six puffs would do. The next urges will make them want to vape. The level of nicotine can slowly be reduced in time, and 6 mg would suffice,” he said.

Is Vaping Safe And Does It Have Any Side Effects?

According to the Scientists of Pharmaceutical Assessment Division of the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), they have tested 19 types of e-cigarettes produced by two manufacturers (NJoy and Smoking Everywhere).

They have found that the 'tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are present and which can cause cancer in both the e-cigarette brands.

Furthermore, the concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes are not equal to the value written on the label and there is a bit of nicotine in e-cigarettes despite the "nicotine-free" description.

Edmund defends:

“We cannot say that vaping is safe, but what we can say is that our lungs are made to take in oxygen and nothing else. It is also safe to say, for smokers, why not opt for a safer path?

“But of course, there are certain risks of vaping, especially from its flavour ingredients. For example, some flavours contain a substance called Diasatol and what it does is that it enters your bronchus and causes asthma.

“The way the flavours are manufactured is essential, which grade they come from, and the edibility of PG/VG substances, whether it is medically safe and hygienic makes a difference.

“My advise to vapers would be to make sure their flavours are safe. Go for quality ones that are imported. It's not advisable to vape flavours that come in colours, because it contains artifcial colouring. Flavours should be colourless.

“As you can see, ours are very limited in flavour and are encased in glass bottles. This is to ensure the flavours are the best kind, and even the bottles come in dark tints, to protect the sunlight from breaking the particles of the liquid.

“I don’t know anyone who has faced health problems from vaping, so far. But like smoking cigarettes, symptoms will not show until at least five years later.

“Perhaps, the same can be said with vaping, that it could have an effect in the long run, but I believe more research is needed on this. For now however, it is safe,” he quipped.

Then, what about the reports of devices exploding while vaping?

“Actually, all these devices have a power cut. If you are burning it for a certain amount of time, the device will stop burning by itself if it has been going on for too long.

“It will turn off automatically if you press it for 10 seconds. The hotness levels range from 200-500 degrees celsius.

“Reports of devices that have exploded in people’s faces were due to the unsafe batteries. There are batteries specialised for vaping, and it’s only meant for vaping,” he then cautioned.

He also added: “I won't advise young kids to try vaping, and we don’t allow any to be sold to them as we adhere to the tobacco regulations.

“Only those from the age of 18 and above can vape. Most people who vape are usually around the age of 25-30, and reaching even 40 years old. There are a lot of females who vape as well,” he shared based on the crowd that flock his shop.

Is Vaping Haram In Islam?

Finally, Malaysian Digest speaks to Ustaz Mustaqim from the State Mufti’s Office based in Kuala Lumpur.

Referring to the Irsyad by the Federal Territories Mufti, we asked him if vaping, and smoking, really is haram.

“In Malaysia, we follow the other countries, and look at the whole debate on an international level. According to Islamic scholars, they tend to say that smoking is haram because there are many reports and research saying that it is harmful.

“But there are also other Islamic scholars who question these findings and say that the haram decision is not their ‘final’ answer, and claim that the law is situational. This however, has not been made a fatwa in Malaysia.

“There are also those who say it is ‘makruh’ (detested) but it is not deteriorating for the health. But if it ever reaches the stage where it can impact someone’s health, then it can be said that vaping is haram.

“Another opinion from the clerics is that this applies to smoking the old-fashioned way as oppose to modern cigarettes. 

Some scholars are not even aware of this issue, while others, debate on the topic, suggesting that if one requires it and it is beneficial to them, it should be alright. For example, smoking to stay awake while driving.

“But for now, there are no official rulings nationally or in the states saying that it is haram. The Irsyad is the opinion of the Mufti himself, and whatever was written on the website is his (the Mufti’s) opinion, but it is not yet an official ruling to be applied nationally.

“It hasn’t been made into a fatwa nor has it even been gazetted, so it is not being enforced yet.

“It has not gone through the steps and debates with the National Fatwa Council and for it to be an enforceable law, it needs to be gazetted or be made into law by the court. Only once it has been gazetted can it be enforced.

“For now, it is more like an advice from the Mufti, published on his website, as is his opinion. I hope this makes things clear”, the Ustaz clarified.

More Research And Regulation Is Needed

In conclusion, vaping has its pros and cons.

It does seem like the cheaper and safer alternative to cigarettes. On the subject of vaping helping smokers quit, in all actuality, it is up to vapers to make that happen.

On its health effects, only time will tell with enough research. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam has already said yesterday that smoking using the shisha and electronic cigarette or vaping methods should be temporarily stopped until the findings on its risks are announced in two months’ time.

And while the authorities debate whether vaping is safe, or religiously permissible - one fact remains, just like cigarettes, it definitely has to be regulated considering the ever-growing craze in the country.

- Malaysian Digest