KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 – MPs in Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) health committee have described Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s justification in exempting liquid nicotine from the Poisons List as “arrogant”.
In an affidavit filed last October 5 in response to a judicial review application by anti-tobacco groups over the declassification of liquid and gel nicotine as a scheduled poison under the Poisons Act 1952, the health minister said she had the ministerial authority to do so without a legal requirement to obtain approval from the Poisons Board.
The independent Poisons Board, which was established under the Poisons Act, had unanimously objected to the proposed liquid nicotine exemption from the Poisons List, before the health minister went on to make the exemption order last March 31 to enable the taxation of e-cigarette and vape liquids with nicotine.
“Although with legal basis, this statement is embarrassing coming from a health minister who’s a medical practitioner,” PN’s health committee of MPs said in a statement yesterday.
“Perikatan Nasional MPs’ Health Committee wishes to remind the Health Minister that members of the Poisons Board are experts in their respective fields who know far more about the harmful effects of this poison on society.
“Their unanimous rejection against exempting liquid nicotine was not a decision made without strong medical basis and cannot be simply dismissed.
“The Minister cannot simply use ministerial powers to make a decision that clearly harms society. Ministerial powers should have been used to protect public health, instead of sacrificing it in the name of taxation.”
The opposition MPs reiterated their call for liquid nicotine to be restored into the Poisons List.
Dr Zaliha filed her affidavit just a few days before the government’s abrupt flip-flop on the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, failing to table the tobacco and vape control bill for second reading in Parliament last Tuesday despite the health minister’s promise.
Instead, the Ministry of Health launched a public survey on the tobacco and vape generational end game (GEG) ban proposal, raising ire from the Malaysian Medical Association that described the poll as a stalling tactic against the bill.