Youth Group: Tobacco Bill Punishes Low-Income Kids

Gagasan Belia says the generational end game (GEG) leads to child incarceration if GEG offenders can’t pay the RM500 fine for smoking, adding that the bill fails to address the root cause of addiction.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 –  A group of young people has called for an urgent review of the generational end game (GEG) provision in the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, which is scheduled to be re-tabled in Parliament next month.

Youth group Gagasan Belia, in a statement today, said the GEG violates Article 8 of the federal constitution which guarantees equal rights for all, echoing former Chief Justice Zaki Azmi’s statement earlier this month.

“The GEG will be the only bill in the history of the country to be enacted based on a person’s year of birth, rather than age. Hence, it will contradict the federal constitution,” Gagasan Belia’s statement read.

The group also claimed that the GEG, which aims to prohibit tobacco and vape for anyone born from January 1, 2007, will “victimise” children and people in the low-income community without resolving other factors that lead to tobacco addiction.

The proposed bill also grants broad enforcement powers that have the potential to be abused, Gagasan Belia said.

“We urge the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) [for the proposed legislation] to hold discussions with the Malaysian Bar Council and issue a comprehensive report on the constitutionality of the bill.

“The proposed tobacco bill [in its current form] clearly violates fundamental rights as it gives the government power to prosecute some citizens on account of their birth date alone,” the group said. 

“It is not wrong to bring back the legislation as a Constitutional Amendment Bill instead of hastily passing a bill that will surely be killed in court,” the group added.

Gagasan Belia further noted that the GEG will lead to child incarceration if offenders can’t pay the RM500 fine for smoking

“Although the fine was reduced from RM5,000 to RM500, the high penalty will cause many people, especially the poor, to face other punishments including imprisonment, as they will not have the capacity to pay,” the group said.

Additionally, the group warned that excessive powers granted to law enforcers can be used against vulnerable communities and minorities.

“We see this bill as regressive and has many loopholes that need to be improved,” said Gagasan Belia.

“We demand that this bill be reviewed and brought for discussion involving public health experts, constitutional experts on children, and other stakeholders to look at its impact on human rights and adherence to harm reduction before it is approved in Parliament.”

Gagasan Belia is part of the CSO Platform for Reform, a coalition of 102 civil society organisations that focus on institutional change.

Gagasan Belia yesterday organised a joint discussion titled “Is the GEG Act in line with the Constitution?” with Undi18 co-founder Tharma Pillai and lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla that was broadcast on Undi18’s Facebook page. The discussion was moderated by Mohammad Alshatri Abdullah.

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