KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 – The government plans to outlaw smoking for future generations in Malaysia, similar to New Zealand’s recent move in banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2008.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said he will table a new Tobacco and Smoking Control Act in the upcoming Parliament meeting to replace current tobacco product control legislations under the Food Act 1983.
This new law will not just regulate e-cigarettes and vape products, but also enforce what Khairy described as a “generation endgame” for smoking in the country in the long run.
“To me, the allocation for this generational endgame must be created to ensure that there comes a time when the new generations in this country will no longer know what a cigarette is,” Khairy said in his 2022 New Year message to the Ministry of Health (MOH) Thursday, according to a transcript of his speech provided to the press.
“For too long, our health care system has been burdened with health care issues resulting from smoking. This allocation will enable smoking to be phased out in stages until one day in future, Malaysia will be a smoke-free country.”
New Zealand plans to ban the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products to anyone born after 2008 in a law expected to be enacted this year.
New Zealand’s proposal, starting in 2027, will progressively raise the legal smoking age from 18 every year, allowing existing smokers to continue to buy cigarettes but effectively making tobacco products unavailable to everyone born after 2008.
The Guardian reported New Zealand’s associate health minister Dr Ayesha Verrall as saying last month that this means people currently aged 14 and under will never be able to legally buy cigarettes in their lifetime.
Singapore is reportedly studying New Zealand’s cohort smoking ban.
In his speech to MOH staff, Khairy did not specify when the proposed smoking ban would come into effect or the year of birth for people who would be forever prohibited from buying cigarettes and tobacco products.
If Parliament approves the proposed legislation, Malaysia would have among the world’s toughest anti-smoking laws.
According to Malaysia’s 2020 report to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), about one in five, or 21.3 per cent, of people aged 15 years and older in Malaysia smoke.
Smoking is mainly a male problem, with 40.5 per cent of men aged 15 years and above smoking and only 1.2 per cent among women.
Smoking prevalence is 24 per cent in males aged 15 to 19 and more than 40 per cent in older men. The highest smoking rates are in young men aged 30 to 34, where nearly half, or 49 per cent, light up.