KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 – Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today that he would table the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, which proposes to ban smoking for future generations, in the next Parliament meeting in July.
Khairy tweeted his remarks after he received a memorandum from Green Lung Malaysia and IKRAM Health, together with 91 non-government organisations (NGOs), and medical and professional bodies, that support the minister’s plans to prohibit the sale of tobacco and vape products to anyone born from January 1, 2005.
“God willing, the Bill will be tabled in July and get bipartisan support,” Khairy said.
The memorandum by Green Lung Malaysia, IKRAM Health, and 91 groups pointed out that although conventional cigarette use has declined in Malaysia, the proportion of adults using e-cigarettes or vape increased from 3.2 per cent in 2016 to 4.9 per cent in 2016, or from 600,000 to 1.2 million individuals.
Citing a 2017 adolescent health survey, the groups noted that although there was a decrease of 295,000 users of conventional cigarettes among adolescents aged 13 to 17, e-cigarettes are increasingly popular among teens.
The survey showed 211,000 teenagers (17 per cent and 2.8 per cent of male and female teens respectively) use e-cigarettes or vape.
“This shows that nicotine addiction has switched from conventional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes and vape that are seen as more modern and attractive,” said the groups.
They cited government projections that estimated RM8.2 billion to treat just three of smoking-related diseases in 2030.
“Implementing the generational end game enables the drastic reduction of new smokers (conventional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes). This strategy will reduce smoking prevalence overall, thus reducing the cost of treating smoking-related health conditions.”
Khairy’s plans to ban smoking for anyone born from January 1, 2005 means that people who are aged 17 this year will not be able to legally buy cigarettes or vape products next year when they turn 18, the current legal age for smoking. Vape and e-cigarettes are in a regulation grey area as these products are technically not legal.
Besides New Zealand’s cohort smoking prohibition that targets anyone born after 2008, Denmark recently announced plans to ban the sale of cigarettes and other nicotine-based products to anyone born after 2010.
If Malaysia’s Parliament passes the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, this means the government only has six months to educate the public and put the necessary mechanisms in place to prohibit the sale of tobacco and vape products to those who turn 18 from January 1, 2023.