KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 – Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi has questioned the fate of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 after the tabling of the revised bill for second reading in Parliament was delayed.
Dr Ahmad Yunus, who is head of Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) health committee, said that the abrupt cancellation of MPs’ briefing on the tobacco and vape control bill raises questions whether it will be tabled for second reading in this session.
“I believe this (tobacco bill) has become a topic of conversation, discussion, and public discourse. Many disagreed early on when nicotine was removed from the Poisons Act – from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to medical groups, pharmacists’ associations, and consumer associations.
“The bill was then presented for its initial reading and immediately referred to the Health parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) to be reviewed, so that ultimately, it would be tabled in this august House.
“However, when we were informed that, even though the revised bill appears in the order paper, the MPs’ briefing on the bill scheduled for October 9 was cancelled, it suggests that this bill might not be tabled in Parliament during this session. I’m not sure.
“I thought that the efforts of the Health PSSC, where 11 meetings were held immediately after the bill was referred to the committee, would lead to a resolution.
“From our perspective, if the bill doesn’t get passed in this session, a significant lacuna (gap in the law) will emerge. More teenagers and our children, including those still in school, are likely to start vaping, as statistics suggest that the numbers of those who vape will increase.
“In such a scenario, who will take responsibility when addictions become more prevalent? Nicotine addiction can develop very easily with just a few puffs from smoking products,” said Dr Ahmad Hairi in his debate on the 2024 Budget in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
The Opposition MP is a member of the Health PSSC that is chaired by former health minister and Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) on October 9 confirmed the postponement of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, which was originally scheduled for its second reading on that day.
Despite the pressing need for the bill, given the health minister’s decision to exempt liquid nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 last March 31, the MOH justified the delay by citing the need to address “other government business” in Parliament.
The exemption – made unilaterally by Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa in an exercise of her ministerial powers overriding the Poisons Board’s unanimous objection – effectively legalised the sale of e-cigarettes and vape with nicotine to anyone, including minors aged below 18, as there are currently zero regulations on vape.
Conventional cigarettes are regulated separately by existing tobacco control regulations under the Food Act 1983.
The MOH has also launched a generational end game (GEG) survey on MySejahtera after the government postponed the second reading of the tobacco and vape control bill. It remains uncertain if seeking public feedback at this stage will lead to further delays.