KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) will engage with the Health Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) to discuss necessary adaptations to the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 prior to the bill’s planned tabling in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting scheduled for October.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s special advisor Dr Kelvin Yii said that the PSSC, chaired by former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, is currently holding meetings with an external expert panel to come up with recommendations and refine the bill.
“Recently, they had their external expert panel to present to them the recommendations to the select committee, and it will be down to the committee whether they want to adopt the recommendations or not.
“At the end of the day, we respect the independence and empowerment of the Select Committee itself. We are waiting for the next meeting where the Select Committee will present the recommendations to the MOH.
“From there, we will discuss adaptations to the bill until finalised [for] targeted tabling in the October session,” Dr Yii told CodeBlue on the sidelines of the Hospital Management Asia 2023: Embracing Change For More Efficient Healthcare event held at the Shangri-La Hotel here today.
On August 23, Dzulkefly tweeted that expert groups from 11 universities, the National Poison Centre, and the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), in collaboration with the MOH and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), had finalised their proposed amendments to the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill.
This bill, initially tabled for first reading on June 12 and promptly referred to the PSSC without debate, has gained notoriety for its highly controversial GEG provision. This provision aims to prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to individuals born from 2007 onwards.
Disagreeing with its GEG ban, Tasek Gelugor MP Wan Saiful Wan Jan became the first lawmaker to openly oppose the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 following its tabling.
While Dr Yii said that the bill is expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat during the third meeting beginning on October 9, it is unclear if the bill will receive a simple two-thirds majority to pass. Although Prime Minister (PM) Anwar Ibrahim’s government claims to hold a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the government’s move to refer the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill to the PSSC suggests that the bill lacks sufficient support among government MPs.
Based on discussions on a previous iteration of the bill last year, during the tenure of former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin under then-PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration, it appears that MPs who also have legal backgrounds are particularly opposed to the GEG.
Since the introduction of the new tobacco bill by Dr Zaliha last June, not a single MP, whether from the government or the Opposition, has publicly voiced support for it.
The exceptions include Dr Yii, who is also Bandar Kuching MP, and Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, the head of PN’s health committee.
Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is former health minister and head of the Health PSSC, is currently engaged in amending the bill.