Malaysian Green Lung Association: ‘Don’t Let State Elections Stall Tobacco Bill’

“If the people and parents cannot rely on the Ministry of Health to safeguard the health of their children, who else can they place their hopes on?”

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 – The Malaysian Green Lung Association strongly supports and urges the government to expeditiously present the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 to Parliament this month or no later than June this year, as announced by Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

The group highlighted that the lack of regulatory measures has led to concerning outcomes, with the promotion and advertising of vape products becoming increasingly unregulated and excessive.

“The upcoming state elections should not be used as an excuse to delay the presentation and approval of this bill. If the government is concerned that the bill may offend voters, numerous public surveys conducted by media outlets and non-governmental organisations have shown an encouraging level of support, as high as 97 per cent, for the implementation of the bill and the Generational Endgame (GEG) among smokers and vape users,” said the Malaysian Green Lung Association in a statement yesterday.

Dr Zaliha recently told CodeBlue at the sidelines of the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, that Cabinet will discuss the tobacco and vape bill this Friday. If the bill receives Cabinet approval, the health minister intends to present it to Parliament in June. She is also working with party whips to garner support from backbenchers for the bill.

A survey conducted by CodeBlue and the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy in February last year showed 95 per cent of 676 respondents supporting the government’s proposed generation smoking ban, including smokers.

The survey also found that all 43 respondents aged 19 and below supported the smoking ban. Many think that existing laws against smoking are not enough to outlaw the habit.

Citing recent data from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022, the Malaysian Green Lung Association noted that the use of vape among teenagers in the country has increased from a prevalence of 9.8 per cent in 2017 to 14.9 per cent in 2022, representing a staggering 52 per cent increase within just five years. 

“This rising trend is deeply concerning. The increase in vape usage is closely related to government policies and industry influences,” the group said.

There is currently no law regulating the sale and use of vape in Malaysia. Nicotine in vape and electronic cigarettes has also been recently removed from the Poison Act 1952

The Malaysian Green Lung Association expressed alarm over what seems to be a complete abdication of control by the government, allowing vape and electronic cigarette sellers, as well as the industry, to dictate their own regulations without any imposed limitations.

The group said the lack of regulations and laws have resulted in the promotion and advertising of vape products to become bolder, with large-scale vape expos held in a prominent hotel in the capital city, explicitly for promotion and advertising purposes. 

Self-service machines are installed to sell various types of vape products. The immature mindset of children and teenagers is easily influenced by these enticing marketing strategies. Recently, there have been vape advertisements featuring underage children and teenagers shamelessly promoting vaping on social media, the group said.

Various vape devices designed in the form of cartoon characters or cute animals are readily available in the market, clearly targeting children’s attention. Vape devices resembling stationery items such as liquid paper or USB drives, as well as those in the form of smartwatches, seem to be created to appeal to teenagers and students.

The group added that vape sales are becoming more widespread, including in mobile phone shops, stationery stores, and chain convenience stores. Users can also purchase vape products through online shopping platforms and food delivery services, making it easier for teenagers and students to buy and obtain vape supplies without the knowledge of their parents and teachers.

“The lack of sales control in various locations and the massive advertising and promotion by the industry sends a message to children and teenagers that the government seemingly supports the culture of using vape and electronic cigarettes,” the group said.

“The data from NHMS 2022 and various surveys have provided sufficient warning. So why is the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the government delaying the implementation of control measures on vape and electronic cigarettes? If the people and parents cannot rely on the MOH to safeguard the health of their children, who else can they place their hopes on?

“Dr Zaliha has repeatedly promised the Malaysian people through the media that the MOH will present the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 with GEG provisions. May is nearing its end, so when will the government fulfil its promise?”

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