On this World Lung Cancer Day, Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM) calls upon all esteemed Members of Parliament (MP) across the political divide to unanimously support the Health Ministry’s proposed generational “end game” tobacco ban for those born after 1st January 2007.
As responsible elected representatives of the rakyat, we urge MPs to demonstrate courageous political will and true statesmanship to help implement the Tobacco Bill to create a truly impactful and lasting health legacy for our nation.
Cancer is a major non-communicable disease and health burden in Malaysia. Tobacco use accounts for almost one in four cancers here and is a major drain on the Treasury’s finances in addition to lost productivity.
The emperor of all maladies, lung cancer is a leading cancer in terms of incidence and mortality.
Tobacco smoking remains the most common risk factor and secondhand passive smoking is a big culprit in the increasing cases of lung cancer in the non-smoker.
The projected loss of RM3 billion to RM5 billion annually from tobacco taxation is dwarfed by the healthcare expense of tobacco-inflicted diseases estimated at RM7 billion to RM8 billion each year.
Treatment costs for smoking-induced lung cancer alone exceeds RM130 million per year. The disingenuous argument put forth by Big Tobacco about diminished government revenue from reduced taxation is a false economy.
In real terms the proposed tobacco ban will be phased over many years only affecting future generations. Existing adult smokers are unaffected hence the economic impact on the tobacco industry will be negligible in the foreseeable future.
Similarly, the rationale to withdraw support for the Tobacco Bill on the premise it will exacerbate the illicit black market trade is flawed. The scourge of the illegal tobacco trade here (estimated to be one of the highest in the world) can and must be addressed concurrently.
The alleged rampant smuggling, distribution, and sale of counterfeit cigarettes here can be curtailed with diligent monitoring and vigilant border control.
The fear of opening Pandora’s Box with this generational tobacco ban which appears to infringe on personal liberties is unfounded. The overwhelming majority of smokers want to quit but find it difficult to do so, enslaved by a vicious, toxic, and highly addictive habit from young.
Less educated young men from a lower socioeconomic background are often the victims. Tobacco use is unlike the consumption of sugary foods or alcoholic beverages hence such comparisons are irrelevant. Additionally, there is no safe level of smoking and it harms both the environment and innocent people in the vicinity.
LCNM strongly urges all MPs to seize the moment and secure their place in history by courageously supporting this proposed phased generational tobacco ban. The government must then ensure strict but fair, consistent, and sustained enforcement of the law.
As dedicated clinicians, we can only impact and save one life at a time. However, as respected lawmakers, MPs have this opportune moment to implement once-in-a lifetime defining preventative legislation that will benefit future generations of Malaysians.
The time to act is now.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.