MPs Optimistic About Tobacco Bill After Bipartisan Review

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii says he is “optimistic” of the revised bill and will speak to DAP leadership; PKR VPs Nurul Izzah Anwar and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad are also supportive of the new tobacco bill.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 – Several MPs have renewed their support for the tobacco bill after a bipartisan review agreed to omit and amend clauses in the controversial legislation.

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said she is inclined to be supportive of the tobacco bill, taking into account suggestions made in a “spirit of impartiality” and is independent of corporate interests.

“I believe concerns raised by various stakeholders are genuine and I am glad to see that the committee has taken this into account and have come up with recommendations that combine both public health interests as well as the concerns regarding potential misuse of authority,” Nurul Izzah told CodeBlue when contacted yesterday.

The PKR vice president said she respects the committee’s recommendations and has expressed support for the bill. “I will support the bill.”

Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who is also PKR vice president, similarly expressed support for the revised tobacco bill, which Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is supposed to table in the current Parliament sitting.

It is unclear if the health minister can table the revised bill in time amid wide speculation that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob may dissolve parliament today. It should be noted that without the tabling of the revised bill, the next government can only reference the original Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 tabled last July.

The parliament special select committee (PSSC) on the tobacco control bill, in a statement yesterday, agreed to maintain the prohibitions on smoking or vaping, or use of tobacco or vape products, for people born from January 1, 2007, but expressed reservations about penalising possession of tobacco products for the same group.

The PSSC also agreed to reduce the maximum fine for GEG offenders to RM500 from RM5,000, with possibility of community service.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, who is a member of the tobacco bill PSSC, said the committee had taken into account all concerns raised by stakeholders on issues relating to the constitutionality of the bill, overarching enforcement powers given to authorities, and the possibility of fuelling the black market.

“I think these are the three main concerns that were raised. And I think to a certain extent, these issues were debated and discussed very comprehensively in the committee, and we have made a few amendments to address the majority, if not all of these issues,” Dr Yii told CodeBlue when met in Parliament yesterday.

Dr Yii said he will “brief the leadership” at his party DAP on issues that were raised and discussed in the PSSC, the compromises made and crucial inclusions to the revised bill.

“Now of course, I will personally speak to the leadership and then we’ll come up with a decision and I think I’m optimistic about the outcome,” Dr Yii said.

He highlighted that the revised tobacco bill will include a mandatory review clause that will see the legislation revised every five years. 

“This is unprecedented. There is no such provision in any other laws,” Dr Yii said. “This sets a good [example] and way for how law making should be done in Malaysia.”

He also pointed out that generational end game (GEG) offences under Section 17 – which prevents the use of tobacco and vape products for those born from 2007 – will not be recorded in the criminal database, while jail terms are substituted with community service.

Dr Yii also spoke about the possibility of separating non-combustible alternatives into a separate Act in the future. 

“The principle here is we want to allow science to speak. But if we were to do it now, it would delay the bill and we felt that we needed a bill to regulate, especially vaping, immediately,” Dr Yii said. “So instead of doing it now, we let science speak in two years. So within two years, we will have more information, more research and more data. I think we can make the decision and make a distinction then.”

Earlier yesterday, youth collective Gagasan Belia handed over a memorandum to MPs demanding that the government take more time to pass the bill. 

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh and other MPs, including Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, and Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman were among those at the Gagasan Belia anti-GEG protest in Parliament.

Gagasan Belia representative Mohammad Alshatri Abdullah said the group is concerned about the GEG’s violation of basic rights, its impact on the poor, and the wide powers granted to law enforcement.

A Parti Muda state chief, who co-organised the protest, is part of tobacco-funded group Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

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