The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM) strongly supports the proposal made by our Minister of Health to enact a contentious legislation, the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill, which advocates for a smoke-free population in the coming years.
The initial proposal was approved by the Cabinet on 13th July 2022, targeting those who were born in 2005. However, a mixed reaction among the MPs led to a revision of the clauses of the initial bill, which was intended to be executed in 2023 but is now postponed to 2025.
We are still receiving disproportionate reactions and feedback from Members of Parliament (MPs) after the revised bill was tabled on 27th July 2022. We seek unanimous support from MPs to pass the proposal which could potentially position Malaysia as the first nation to execute a smoking cessation intervention among generations of young adults.
The new bill intends to bring into existence a ‘Generational End Game’ (GEG), whereby those who are born on 1st January 2007 onwards will be prohibited from smoking and purchasing tobacco or e-cigarette products, in an attempt to reduce smoking prevalence among the adult population in Malaysia, which currently stands at an alarming rate of 21.3 per cent (National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019).
Tackling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Through A Smoking Ban
Smoking is a known behavioural risk factor which may lead to several non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. In Malaysia, 71 per cent of premature mortality is caused by NCDs and 22 per cent of cancer-related deaths are caused by tobacco consumption.
Regrettably, we are losing over eight million people all over the world annually due to tobacco smoking. It is even more concerning given the growing market of electronic vaporisers in our country from increased sales of e-cigarettes which is perceived as a much ‘cooler’ version of traditional cigarettes among young adults aged 15 to 19 years old, leading them to long-term nicotine addiction.
It should be emphasised that the mental and physical well-being of our future generations must always be a priority, and the impact on health care and public health resulting from smoking clearly outweighs the sales and revenue from tobacco businesses.
Although the implementation of the proposed generational smoking ban is postponed to 2025, we must be prepared for the possible social and economic consequences from the enactment of the law, if passed.
We urge policymakers and stakeholders (government, civil society, business owners, private sectors and local communities) to utilise the given time (two years) to strengthen their readiness in facing the potential challenges ahead by way of education, capacity-building and appropriate communication.
However, in the case of no legislative intervention, it should also be noted that the cost to the nation for the treatment of diseases caused by smoking will escalate to a whopping RM8 billion by 2030, which backs the need for the law to be passed.
We expect our MPs to factor this in when considering the enactment of the tobacco control law as this could worsen our existing chronic underinvestment situation for the treatment of NCDs.
The National Strategic Plan on Tobacco Control 2015-2020 (NSPTC) contains an achievable medium-term goal to decrease the smoking prevalence in our country to 15 per cent before 2025 and 5 per cent by 2045 in line with the WHO Non-Communicable Diseases Global Target.
The proposed bill will not only reduce the prevalence of adult smokers in the long term, but potentially also end the tobacco epidemic in Malaysia.
We, the Academy, strongly urge Parliament to approve the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill, which will bring Malaysia one step closer towards achieving the set targets to create a healthier population and be a game-changer in the prevention and control of NCDs.
We, the under-signed:
- Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (Professor Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, Master)
- College of Anaesthesiologists (Professor Dr Marzida Mansor, President)
- College of Dental Specialists (Professor Dato’ Dr Lian Chin Boon, President)
- College of Emergency Physicians (Associate Professor Dr Shaik Farid Abdull Wahab, President)
- College of Otorhinolaryngologists – Head & Neck Surgeons (Dr Avatar Singh, President)
- College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Professor Datuk Dr Siti Zawiah Omar, President)
- College of Ophthalmologists (Dr Nur Fariza Ngah, President)
- College of Paediatrics (Professor Dr Thong Meow Keong, President)
- College of Pathologists (Professor Dr Cheong Soon Keng, President)
- College of Physicians (Datuk Seri Dr Paras Doshi, President)
- College of Public Health Medicine (Dato’ Indera Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman, President)
- College of Radiology (Professor Dr Norlisah Ramli, President)
- College of Surgeons (Professor Dr Lim Kean Ghee, President)
The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, embracing 12 Colleges and 23 Chapters, is a registered body representing medical specialists in Malaysia.
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