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Malaysia Issued a Fatwa on Vaping

Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council found e-cigarettes to be haram for Muslims

by Daniel Oberhaus
Jan 2 2016, 5:00pm

Image: Flickr/Mike Mozart

E-cigarettes have been making headlines recently thanks to a slew of studies which suggest that even if they're healthier than ol' fashioned cigarettes, they're still worse than smoking nothing at all. A recent study from Harvard found that a distressing number of e-cig juices have a chemical in them linked to a serious lung disease, which probably is a result of the fact that the vape industry is still unregulated (but not for long).

The emerging health risks of vaping have caused other governmental bodies to seek alternative methods of discouraging the practice, such as Malaysia's National Fatwa Council, which declared e-cigarettes to be haram (forbidden) for Muslims in late December.

"From the syariah perspective, Muslims cannot consume something that is harmful to their health or indulge in things that are wasteful," said Dr. Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of Malaysia's National Fatwa Council. "The council finds that the consumption of something that is harmful, whether direct or indirectly, purposely or not, could lead to harm or death; so this will not be allowed."

In spite of the health risks vaping is more popular than ever. It is now a $6 billion industry globally and has been found to be especially attractive to the younger crowd in the industry's largest market, the United States. According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of e-cigarettes among high school aged kids in the US tripled between 2013 and 2014 (from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent). This is a remarkably high percentage, especially compared with the US adult population, only 3.7 percent of which regularly use e-cigs according to a recent survey.

With the issuance of this fatwa—a formal ruling on a contended point of Islamic law—on all things vape, Malaysia joins a number of other predominantly Muslim countries which have already imposed their own bans on e-cigarettes, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. In Malaysia, fatwas are legally enforceable on a state by state basis—so far four Malaysian states (Penang, Kedah, Johor and Kelantan) have banned e-cigarettes for Muslims.

According to Husin, part of the impetus behind the fatwa was in keeping the habit from being picked up by women and children.

"We are seeing women and school children showing interest in vape," he said. "The decision is made to prevent an unhealthy culture from spreading to future generations."

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