KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 – An anti-tobacco women’s coalition today appealed to women MPs particularly to support the government’s proposal to ban smoking and vaping for future generations.
Rakan Strategik Gegar Wanita – a coalition comprising the Malaysian Women for Tobacco Control and Health Association (MyWatch), along with several health non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – expressed disappointment with MPs who did not express support for the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill that touts a tobacco and vape generational end game (GEG).
“According to sources from the Ministry of Health (MOH), to eradicate the smoking habit and to restrict the use of tobacco products in Malaysia, MOH has long worked on this bill since 2013 with five former health ministers,” Rakan Strategik Gegar Wanita said in a statement today issued by MyWatch president Roslizawati Md Ali.
“So what is there to wait for?”
Rakan Strategik Gegar Wanita urged MPs and the government not to be influenced by the tobacco and vape industries.
“We hope that Members of Parliament, especially women MPs, will unite in passing this Act for the welfare of Malaysians and the future generation.”
The women’s coalition noted that increasing numbers of teenagers are getting addicted to cigarettes and vaping, highlighting reports and social media postings that showed the impact of tobacco and vape on young people.
In CodeBlue’s poll among 40 MPs conducted from last Monday to Tuesday on their stance on the GEG and the tobacco bill, two (both male) said directly they would not vote for the bill: Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng (DAP) and Selayang MP William Leong Jee Keen (PKR):
Twelve said openly that they would support the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, while 26 MPs reserved their stance pending a briefing by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and publication of the draft bill.
Eight of the 40 MPs across the aisle polled by CodeBlue were women. Among the eight female lawmakers, only two openly said that they would vote for the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill: PKR vice president and Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and former deputy prime minister and Pandan MP Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
The remaining six women MPs from DAP and PKR reserved their stance on the tobacco bill pending Khairy’s briefing and publication of the draft bill: Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, and Wangsa Maju MP Tan Yee Kew.
After CodeBlue’s report on the poll was published yesterday, Yeoh and Kasthuri, both from DAP, clarified on Twitter that they were waiting for MOH’s briefing before deciding on whether or not they would support the proposed GEG and the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill.
Yeoh and Kasthuri were listed under the “wait and see” column of a CodeBlue graphic on the poll along with 24 other MPs, including some of their DAP colleagues.
When speaking to CodeBlue about their concerns with the proposed tobacco generational ban, both Kok and Maria cited potential problems with enforcement and implementation.
Kok, a senior DAP lawmaker, questioned how the authorities could stop young people from smoking but allow older adults to light up, or how a smoking ban could be imposed on tourists.
PKR lawmaker Maria said the government has yet to resolve the issue of illicit cigarettes, besides pointing out that it would be unfair to penalise licensed retailers while allowing illegal distributors and traders to continue operating the black market.
The GEG, which seeks to prohibit the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vape to anyone born from January 1, 2005, is a new provision inserted by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin into the proposed tobacco control legislation that has been years in the making.
Besides MyWatch, Rakan Strategik Gegar Wanita comprises the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM), National Pemadam, Ikram Health, the Malaysian Children’s Welfare Council (MKKM), and the Malaysian Teenage Health Association (MAAH).