Document Type : Review Article
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Research for Impact, Singapore, Singapore
Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
The global e-cigarette market has proliferated and is increasingly dominated by transnational tobacco companies. While Southeast Asian countries have received relatively little attention in e-cigarette research, the region represents an area of potentially untapped growth for the industry. We review the e-cigarette situation in Southeast Asia in terms of the e-cigarette markets, advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes, reported health impacts of e-cigarette use, and policy responses in the region.
We examined e-cigarette market data from the Euromonitor Global Market Information Database (GMID) Passport database, searched in the academic literature, grey literature and news archives for any reports or studies of e-cigarette related diseases or injuries, e-cigarette marketing, and e-cigarette policy responses in Southeast Asian countries, and browsed the websites of online e-cigarette retailers catering to the region’s active e-cigarette markets.
In 2019, e-cigarettes were sold in six Southeast Asian markets with a total market value of $595 million, projected to grow to $766 million by 2023. E-commerce is a significant and growing sales channel in the region, with most of the popular or featured brands in online shops originating from China. Southeast Asian youth are targeted with a wide variety of flavours, trendy designs and point of sale promotions, and several e-cigarette related injuries and diseases have been reported in the region. Policy responses vary considerably between countries, ranging from strict bans to no or partial regulations.
Although Southeast Asia’s e-cigarette market is relatively nascent, this is likely to change if transnationals invest more heavily in the region. Populous countries with weak e-cigarette regulations, notably Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, are desirable targets for the transnationals. Regulatory action is needed to prevent e-cigarette use from becoming entrenched into these societies, especially among young people.