Parliament Committee To Review Draft Tobacco Bill Before Tabling

Tomorrow’s proceedings by the health, science and innovation committee on the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill – which appointed external experts – start with a briefing by Khairy Jamaluddin and Noor Hisham Abdullah.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 – The Dewan Rakyat special select committee on health, science and innovation will begin tomorrow to review the draft of the government’s proposed Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill before it is tabled in July.

The parliament committee’s chairman, Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen, said the committee’s series of proceedings is important to allow the committee to “review the wordings” of the Bill and its proposed implementation, while taking into account the different views from all relevant stakeholders, including from the tobacco and vape industry, and civil society.

“Tomorrow’s proceeding will start with a initial briefing by the Minister of Health himself Khairy Jamaluddin and the Director-General of Health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on the Bill itself to examine the government’s intention, draft of the Bill itself, implementation and enforcement plans, and even the feasibility of the ‘generation end game’ in the context of Malaysia,” Dr Yii said in a statement today.

The Bandar Kuching MP said an external expert panel has been appointed to advise the health, science and innovation committee on the tobacco bill, comprising: 

  • Prof Dr Lekhraj Rampal, president of the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control 2018-2022 and chairman of the Action on Smoking and Health Committee Malaysian Medical Association 2013-2022
  • Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, consultant respiratory physician and technical advisor to the Ministry of Health (MOH) on tobacco control
  • Roslizawati Md Ali, president of MyWATCH and Malaysian Women’s Action on Tobacco Control and Health
  • Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, chief coordinator of University Malaya’s Centre of Addiction Sciences
  • Dr Steven Chow, president of the Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia
  • Wong Teu Hoon, president of the Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association
  • Azrul Mohd Khalib, chief executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy

The MOH believes that the proposed generational smoking ban — which aims to prohibit cigarettes, tobacco, and vape products for anyone born from January 1, 2005 — is the next step towards reducing cancer cases and improving cancer treatment access in the country. Tobacco is reportedly responsible for about a fifth of cancer cases in Malaysia, with the annual cost of treating lung cancer from smoking estimated at RM132.7 million.

“While we understand the importance of this Bill on the public health sense, it must be reviewed and analysed from a holistic view to review its impact not just in terms of public health, but also the economy, and social behaviour. 

“This is to ensure its feasibility, proper implementation and also if there are better alternatives, especially to better regulate or harm reduction rather than an outright ban when it comes to the ‘generation end game’,” Dr Yii said.

He said this must be reviewed also in the context of the high incidence of illicit cigarettes in Malaysia that was reportedly up to 63.8 per cent in 2020 and 57.3 per cent in 2021. 

“That means more than half of cigarettes in the market are illicit and having a policy that bans the sales of it to the youth, will it just push the industry underground where our youth will instead obtain illegal cigarettes whose ingredients are not properly regulated and are harmful.

“That is why we are initiating such proceedings to get a substantive discussion on the matter involving the different stakeholders and to release our recommendations and possible solutions to the government,” Dr Yii said.

The DAP lawmaker said special select parliamentary committees can be the channel for open dialogue on national policy matters, to get bi-partisan inputs and buy-ins, as well to ensure that legislation coming out from Parliament is substantive and covers all necessary perspectives and possible loopholes to ensure it is not abused.

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