Anti-Tobacco Activists Want GE15 Candidates To Support GEG

MCTC describes the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 as the “best” bill drafted in the history of tobacco control ever since Malaysia became party to the WHO FCTC in 2005.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Anti-tobacco advocates yesterday urged all election candidates running for legislative office in the 15th general election to support a generational ban on tobacco and vape.

The Malaysian Council of Tobacco Control (MCTC) along with its 38 affiliates, the Malaysian Youth Council and its 41 affiliates, and 128 other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) highlighted the slow reduction in the country’s smoking prevalence to 21.3 per cent in 2019, amid an increase in vaping.

“The Malaysian Council of Tobacco Control urges all future leaders that will be elected by the people in the coming 15th general election (whether the general or state elections) to be more attentive to the smoking problem,” said MCTC president Dr Murallitharan Munisamy in a statement yesterday.

The Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 – which envisions a smoking generational end game (GEG) by prohibiting the sale to and use of tobacco or vape products by anyone born from 2007 – is a proposed federal law that stalled in the House of Representatives before Parliament was dissolved last Monday.

“We also urge that the bill – as amended by agreement among 13 former Members of Parliament who represented all political parties under the special select committee (PSSC) that was established before the dissolution of Parliament was announced – be immediately approved for the welfare of the Malaysian people,” said Dr Murallitharan.

Although the tobacco bill PSSC, chaired by then-Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government, tabled a report last Wednesday that recommended certain revisions to the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill, Khairy failed to table the revised bill for debate in the Dewan Rakyat the subsequent day.

Instead, last Thursday, the Lower House passed three transport-related bills to regulate p-hailing services that deliver food, drink, and parcels via motorcycles.

This means that the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill remains the version tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat last July 27, which had triggered serious concerns among MPs from the 14th Parliament across the aisle, civil rights activists, and lawyers about excessive enforcement powers, constitutional issues related to personal liberties, and economic impact from a generational ban on cigarettes.

The tobacco bill PSSC in the 14th Parliament had agreed to maintain prohibitions in the bill on smoking or vaping for those born from January 1, 2007, but had expressed reservations about penalising the possession of tobacco or vape products for the GEG group.

The PSSC had also agreed to reduce the maximum fine for GEG offenders from RM5,000 to RM500, with the possibility of community service, besides limiting enforcement powers to the manufacturing, packaging, storing, delivery, distribution, and sale of tobacco products.

Khairy reportedly said yesterday that he would keep pushing the new government to support the GEG, whether as an MP or as an ordinary citizen, but the incumbent Rembau MP from Umno did not specify if Barisan Nasional would include the GEG on its election manifesto for the 15th general election.

Dr Murallitharan cautioned future leaders against postponing the tobacco control bill, stating that the delay will lead to an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes or vape amongst children, teenagers, and the youth.

“Imagine how many more children, teenagers, and youths will be trapped with this problem as long as restrictions on sale, primarily online sales, advertisement bans like those for cigarettes and tobacco products, cannot be accomplished under this law.”

According to the MCTC, 27,000 Malaysians die annually because of smoking. Malaysia’s national smoking prevalence among those aged 15 years and older dropped just by 1.5 points from 22.8 per cent in 2015 to 21.3 per cent in 2019, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey.

“At the same time, the problem of smoking electronic cigarettes or vape can be seen to be more worrying, where in the year 2016, there were as many as 3.2 per cent adult users, which increased to 4.9 per cent in the year 2019.

“If calculated based on total population, electronic cigarette users or vape users have increased from 600,000 people to 1.2 million people in Malaysia,” said Dr Murallitharan.

The MCTC expressed confidence that future elected Members of Parliament will not allow people to continue risking their lives with risky behaviours, especially the use of e-cigarettes that is “proven” to cause Evali disease.

Evali, or E-cigarette, or Vaping Product, Use Associated Lung Injury, is a serious medical condition in which a person’s lungs become damaged from substances contained in e-cigarettes and vaping products. American researchers have linked vitamin E acetate, a synthetic form of vitamin E found in some THC-containing vaping products, to EVALI.

The anti-tobacco activists found the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill to be the “best” bill drafted by the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General’s Chambers in the country’s history of tobacco control, ever since Malaysia became a party to the WHO Framework on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on December 15, 2005.

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