The popularity of high-nicotine vape pens, especially among Gen Z, is surging across Southeast Asia, with governments struggling to regulate this booming industry. The battery-operated devices, offering flavoured liquid vaporization, are gaining traction despite concerns about exposing young people to nicotine and other harmful substances.
Critics argue that regulators have been slow to address the laws and taxation associated with vaping, leading to a patchwork of regulations across the region.
In Vietnam, where vaping is unregulated, the government is considering new laws to control the use and sale of e-cigarettes. Singapore and Thailand have strict bans on importing, selling, and using vapes, yet black markets have emerged, challenging the effectiveness of these prohibitions. In contrast, Indonesia openly sells and advertises vape products, allowing the industry to flourish, with celebrities endorsing them. This has led to the vape industry employing 200,000 people.
Despite its popularity, vaping in Southeast Asia comes at a premium, with high-quality imported vapes costing up to $27 each. In Malaysia, lawmakers have proposed banning all e-cigarette products, citing health concerns, while existing tobacco control laws have yet to address vaping. In Singapore, with its stringent anti-smoking laws, efforts are being made to crack down on imported vapes, with fines and jail time for offenders.
The health impacts of vaping are still disputed, but experts warn that it is not without consequences, as e-cigarettes contain nicotine, tar, and other potentially hazardous chemicals. Singapore is taking preventive measures to curb vaping before it becomes widespread, with strict enforcement against the possession, use, or purchase of vape devices. In Indonesia, where nearly 40% of the population are smokers, vaping is taxed, contributing around $85 million in taxes to the state’s coffers.
As the vape trend continues to gain momentum in Southeast Asia, governments face the challenge of striking a balance between regulation, public health concerns, and the economic benefits associated with the growing industry. With varying approaches across the region, the impact of vaping on young populations and public health remains a topic of ongoing debate and scrutiny. As debates continue over the health impacts and regulatory frameworks, the future of vaping in the region remains uncertain.