KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 – The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 proposes a maximum RM500 fine or community service for anyone born from 2007 caught smoking or vaping, using, or purchasing tobacco or vape products.
The tobacco bill – which regulates tobacco and vape products or e-cigarettes, all defined as “smoking products” – prohibits the sale of such products to anyone born on or from January 1, 2007 [Section 13(1) and Section 14(1)], as well as the purchase [Section 14(3)] and use (Section 19) of these smoking products, and the act of smoking or vaping (Sections 18 and 19), by this cohort, also known as the generational end game (GEG).
Personal possession of smoking products by the GEG group is not listed as an offence in the 2023 bill, unlike the first iteration of the bill, the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, that failed to pass the 14th Parliament last year.
In the 2023 bill, the sale of smoking products to the GEG group is punishable with a fine not exceeding RM20,000, or imprisonment of up to a year, or both for the first offence for individual sellers. Second or subsequent offences are punishable with a maximum RM30,000 fine, jail not exceeding two years, or both.
Body corporates convicted of this offence are liable to a fine of between RM20,000 and RM100,000, or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both for the first offence. Second or subsequent offences are punishable with a fine of between RM50,000 and RM300,000, or jail of up to three years, or both.
The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill limits enforcers’ power to enter premises that are believed to be used for manufacturing, packaging, storage, delivery, distribution or sale of smoking products.
This Section 28 in the 2023 bill addressed previous concerns in the 14th Parliament with the 2022 bill on excessive enforcement powers that covered suspected violations by smokers or vapers from the GEG group born from 2007, including body searches of minors.
Similar limits on other enforcement actions – such as the power to open packages (Section 32) and the power to stop, search, and seize conveyance (Section 33) – were also imposed in the 2023 bill to exclude personal offences by the GEG group.
The power to access recorded information or computerised data (Section 36) also excludes offences under Section 18 or 19 that relate to smoking or use of smoking products by those born from 2007.
Section 1(2) of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill empowers the Health Minister to decide the date for the operation of the Act, as well as to decide different dates for the operation of different provisions in the law.
Slides presented by the Ministry of Health (MOH), in a media briefing last week, said that the government would delay enforcement of the GEG for heated tobacco and vape products or e-cigarettes to a later date, compared to immediate enforcement of the GEG for conventional tobacco products like cigarettes.
The MOH did not provide the public health justification for differentiating between both types of nicotine products, simply describing the 2023 tobacco bill as a “win-win solution”.
Earlier today, the government shockingly referred the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill to the Health parliamentary special select committee (PSSC), chaired by Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad, immediately after first reading in the Dewan Rakyat – before even tabling it for second reading for debate in full chambers of the House.
There are only three days left to the end of the current Dewan Rakyat meeting scheduled for Thursday. E-cigarettes and vape can now be legally sold to minors aged below 18, after Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa gazetted an order last March 31 to remove liquid and gel nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952.
Dr Zaliha, in explaining to the Dewan Rakyat today on the referral of the tobacco bill to the PSSC, claimed that the select committee, as well as MPs, professional bodies, and civil societies had requested for “certain matters” to be refined, without elaborating further.
Dzulkefly did not release a public statement on the Health PSSC’s June 6 meeting that Dr Zaliha had cited.
After briefings that Dr Zaliha held twice with both government and Opposition MPs last March and last week on the tobacco bill, no MP has publicly expressed their opinion on the bill, except for Sungai Buloh MP R. Ramanan from Pakatan Harapan who held a recent press conference to criticise the bill.