PETALING JAYA - Vape store owners were caught by surprise when the Health Ministry conducted a nationwide raid which businessmen claimed caused losses running into millions of ringgit.
In Selangor alone, over 300 vape stores were raided yesterday.
"The shops were raided and items were confiscated and summonses issued. Some shops lost some products while in others, they cleaned out everything," said Malaysian Organisation of Vape Entities president Samsul Kamal Arriffin.
He said the raid was unfair as vape was used as an alternative by many smokers to stop the habit.
"If they are genuinely concerned for people to stop (smoking), why would they spend so much in anti-smoking campaigns but clamp down on people who want to help others stop smoking?" he asked.
Among the stores raided was one in Shah Alam following the discovery of products containing nicotine. The shop owner said the ministry officers seized over 3,000 bottles of vape liquid with a total value of RM100,000 (S$32,691).
"They came around 4pm and showed us a letter claiming that the raid was due to the nicotine content in our products," he said, adding that the officers did not have any letter to show they had the power to seize products.
He also claimed that he did not get a clear response from the officers on how the products could be redeemed.
"They just told me to try and speak to their boss if we wanted our things back," said the frustrated owner.
A store owner in Kuala Lumpur said he closed his shop upon receiving information about the raid, and it would remain closed until further notice.
"If you want to confiscate (our products), at least give us fair warning. The raids will not deter our business. We will still continue selling vapes, but we will take it underground.
"Transactions will still go on, just without the store. We will sell it online," he added.
A Health Ministry spokesman said that the raid and confiscation were done to monitor the nicotine content of vape liquid in the market.
"The other reason was that they mostly do not possess a valid licence from the ministry," said the official.
Asked on why there had been no forewarning or advisory for the store owners, the official said: "No need, because Poison Act is clear in its enforcement,".
Referring to a statement by the Deputy director general Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim, the official said the sale and use of e-cigarettes containing nicotine liquid is subject to the Poisons Act 1952 and Food Act 1983 under the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations 2004.