KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 – Fifty-seven civil society groups have urged MPs to support the government’s proposed smoking ban for future generations when the new Tobacco and Smoking Control Act is tabled in Parliament.
The 57 non-government organisations (NGOs), including anti-tobacco, doctors, and cancer groups, said Malaysia’s national strategic plan in tobacco control aims to reduce smoking rates to less than 15 per cent by 2025, and under 5 per cent by 2040.
Currently, about 21 per cent of people aged 15 and older in Malaysia smoke. Nearly half of men, or 40.5 per cent, light up.
“Will our country be successful in achieving the Endgame? Of course not if no one had started this bold and courageous approach like what was suggested by YB Khairy,” the 57 groups said in a statement yesterday, referring to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Khairy said in his New Year message to Ministry of Health (MOH) staff last Thursday that the government plans to table a new Tobacco and Smoking Control Act in the upcoming Parliament meeting that will not just regulate vape products, but also prohibit the sale of cigarettes to the next generation.
Malaysia is effectively following New Zealand’s recent move in banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2008, who will never be able to legally buy cigarettes in their lifetime.
Khairy did not state when the proposed age-based smoking ban would take effect or which cohort would be targeted.
The 57 groups urged the government to also include e-cigarettes and vape products in the cohort smoking ban, noting that the number of e-cigarette users in Malaysia rose from an estimated 600,000 in 2016 to more than 1.1 million, as reported by the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019.
“The prohibition on the purchase or ownership of all kinds of products by the next generation is very critical to ensure that the concept of ‘harm reduction’, which is often touted by the electronic cigarette or vape industry, is not accepted because there is no scientific evidence for it.”
The government is currently working on new tobacco control legislation after previously announcing during the tabling of Budget 2022 that e-cigarette and vape liquids containing nicotine would be taxed, effectively legalising these products.