We refer to the statement by the Prime Minister in Parliament today, that he will “flip-flop” on decisions if it benefits the people. So for the sake of the people’s health, especially the health of our younger generation, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) hopes the Prime Minister will flip-flop this time and re-list nicotine under the Poisons Act immediately.
The MMA also calls on all medical and pharmaceutical associations to put pressure on the government to re-list nicotine under the Poisons Act.
If the Ministry of Health (MOH) was truly committed to the passage of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill and understanding the clear and present dangers of nicotine addiction and poisoning, it would have not removed nicotine from the Poisons Act before the tabling of the Bill.
We heard yesterday from the MOH how dangerous nicotine exposure is to health. In the Parliament’s Special Chambers yesterday, the health minister revealed that a 16-year-old girl with a three-year vaping history had died from acute heart failure in a probable E-Cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) case.
The minister also revealed that a two-year-old girl, suspected to have ingested liquid nicotine either via inhalation or swallowing of tvape liquid from a disposable vape, suffered seizures at a paediatric intensive care unit.
The toddler suffered neurological problems with disturbed motor and speech functions. The health minister also said that 77 cases of nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes or vape had been reported until 2015. Not surprisingly, in this year alone, seven cases of nicotine poisoning were reported, including five among children.
Despite all this data and the fact that the e-cigarette and vape industry remains unregulated, the MOH went ahead with removing nicotine from the Poisons Act.
The health minister has admitted that the move to exempt nicotine from the Poisons Act last March 31 was to enable the collection of excise taxes on nicotine liquids and gels used in e-cigarettes and vaping devices. It is disappointing indeed that tax collection has taken precedence over public health concerns.
Rumours Of Bill Being Stalled Over Fears Of Losing Support In State Elections
The MMA finds it disturbing to hear rumours that the Bill is being deliberately stalled over fears that the ruling coalition may lose support, particularly among younger voters, in the upcoming state elections in six states.
The public are also theorising on social media that the tobacco and vape industry could be pressuring the government to give in to their demands concerning the Bill.
We believe there is no truth to these claims. However, the government must do more to prove it is prioritising the health of all Malaysians by giving urgency to the tabling of the Bill for passage in Parliament in the current session.
Any further delays will be seen by the people as a lack of concern from the government over serious issues affecting public health.
Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai is the president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
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