NGO files suit over anti-vape raids in Malaysia

NGO files suit over anti-vape raids in Malaysia
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

KUALA LUMPUR - Two ministries and the Inspector-General of Police have been hit with an over RM1mil (S$329,000) lawsuit for their enforcement against vape traders.

A non-governmental organisation, Pertubuhan Ikatan Usahawan Kecil & Sederhana Malaysia (Ikhlas), is seeking RM1mil in exemplary and aggravated damages.

It is also applying for general and special damages to be assessed by the court, saying that vape traders suffered losses, difficulties and anxiety due to fear of possible raids by the enforcement authorities.

The NGO named the respective director-general of the Health Ministry and the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry, the IGP and the Johor Baru City Council as defendants.

It wants a declaration that their raiding and seizing of vaping mechanical mod, e-liquid and other vape products from their members were wrong and done in bad faith.

The civil claim was filed at the High Court civil registry yesterday through lawyer Zulhasmi Zakaria.

Ikhlas is applying for a court order to stop the defendants from raiding, seizing or issuing fines or compounds to such businesses.

It is asking for the defendants to return the seized products within seven days from a court order.

The NGO said several vape traders in Johor Baru, who are their members, had been examined during raids on Dec 15.

These members, who operated under the name of Vape Bro, Vape King and Vape Lab had their products worth about RM400,000 seized.

They claimed that Johor Baru City Council's refusal to issue business licences to them on the grounds that it was illegal was in contravention with their rights under the Federal Constitution.

In their statement of claim, Ikhlas said its members suffered losses as they had ordered stocks from their Malaysian and foreign suppliers.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Zulhasmi said his client wanted to get a certainty on whether vape was wrong or not.

"The vape traders are still confused over whether they can operate their business. They want the High Court to determine this," he said.

Zulhasmi said the traders wanted to know the situation as the Federal Government had not banned vaping.

Ikhlas president Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah said that they had received complaints from about 1,000 vape traders.

He said the NGO, which has a membership of 100,000, wanted an explanation over the issue.

A vape trader, Mohamad Fadzli Mohamad Taib, 35, said he suffered RM50,000 in losses after his vape products were seized from him in Negri Sembilan two months ago.

"I have a licence. I just got a notice from the Health Ministry saying that I have committed an offence under the Poisons Act and all my products were seized.

"I did not get any explanation on whether I will be charged in court. I have been operating for three months after getting a loan from family. This is depressing," he said.

"The law did not say vaping is banned. We have agreed to follow the law but we are treated like criminals," he added.

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