KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 – The government plans to prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to people born after 2005 in a bid to outlaw smoking for the next generation.
This means that Malaysians who are 17 years old today will not be able to legally buy tobacco next year when they turn 18, the legal age for smoking in Malaysia, or ever in their lifetime.
“We, like some other WPRO (Western Pacific) countries, hope to pass a legislation this year which, if successful, will bring about a generation endgame to smoking by making it illegal for the sale of tobacco and other smoking products to anyone born after 2005,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told the 150th session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) executive board meeting in Geneva yesterday.
“Malaysia feels this will have a significant impact in preventing and controlling NCDs (non-communicable diseases).”
More than 27,200 smoking-related deaths in Malaysia are reported annually. Smoking causes diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Khairy previously said he planned to table a new Tobacco and Smoking Control Act in the upcoming Parliament meeting that will not just regulate e-cigarettes and vaping products, but also ban smoking for future generations.
If Parliament approves the tobacco prohibition for anyone born after 2005, this means that the government has less than a year to come up with a mechanism to ensure that cigarettes are not sold to 18-year-old adults in 2023.
Last month, New Zealand announced 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.
About one in five adults aged 15 years and older in Malaysia smoke, with an estimated 4.9 million current smokers.
Smoking is predominantly a male problem in Malaysia, as about two in five men smoke. Nearly half the male population in every age group light up, except male teens aged 15 to 19 with 24 per cent smoking prevalence.