Galen: Tobacco Bill Must Pass Now, Decouple GEG If Necessary

The Galen Centre suggests decoupling GEG from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 if necessary for passage, after the government referred the tobacco bill to the Health PSSC after first reading – before even debate in Parliament.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 – The Galen Centre For Health and Social Policy today suggested decoupling the controversial generational end game (GEG) from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 to ensure swift passage of the bill.

The think tank made the suggestion after the government immediately referred the tobacco bill to the Health parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) after tabling it for first reading in the House earlier today, just three days before the end of the current Dewan Rakyat meeting this Thursday.

“No more excuses, ifs and buts. The government and Members of Parliament (MPs) must be pragmatic, find both the right compromises, and the moral courage to step up and do the right thing. 

“If this means that we must temporarily shelve the GEG provisions to guarantee passage of this Bill, then so be it. We urgently need the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill to be passed in Parliament now,” Azrul said in a statement today.

The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill prohibits the sale of tobacco and vape products to anyone born on or from January 1, 2007, as well as the purchase and use of such products, and the act of smoking or vaping, by this cohort, also known as the GEG.

Azrul said the government’s decision to refer the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill to a select committee at the first reading, rather than proceed to the next stage of debate in full chambers of the House, is both surprising and disappointing.

Allowing the bill to proceed to second reading would have allowed for open debate, transparency of opinion and consideration of its merits, Azrul added.

“The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy calls on the PSSC on Health, under the leadership of Dzulkefly Ahmad, to swiftly convene a meeting and immediately send the bill back to the Dewan Rakyat for second reading, debate, third reading, and vote before the end of this parliamentary meeting.  

“The Health Minister opened Pandora’s Box when she signed the order last March to remove liquid and gel nicotine used in the production of vape and e-cigarettes from the list of controlled substances scheduled under the Poisons Act 1952,” Azrul said.

“This move not only shocked those who work in public health and tobacco control here in Malaysia but also internationally, eliciting a strong response and statement on vape and e-cigarettes from the Director General of the World Health Organisation on 2 June.

“It must be remembered that this exemption order went against the recommendations of the Poisons Board. It had unanimously rejected this proposal in March for good reason,” Azrul pointed out.

There were no legal frameworks or regulations governing the production, packaging, marketing, sale and use of vape devices and e-cigarettes, prior to the declassification of liquid nicotine from the Poisons Act that prohibited this harmful substance for minors aged under 18. 

With the Health Minister’s order, there are now absolutely no safeguards which prevent the sale of e-cigarettes and vape products of high nicotine concentration to anyone, including minors.

“We are already seeing the consequences. Children, teenagers, youth especially young women, are now the targets of aggressive promotional, marketing and sales campaigns by retailers and manufacturers. More vape and e-cigarettes are being produced which are deliberately made to look colourful, have sweet juices, and designs which appeal to young people,” Azrul highlighted.

“Recent studies and cases by the Ministry of Health (MOH) are already reporting seeing more teenagers taking up vape and e-cigarettes, becoming addicted to nicotine, and even becoming seriously ill as a result of respiratory diseases. Why is the government ignoring its own data and evidence?”

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