KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 – The Youth and Sports Ministry (KBS) has informed the Ministry of Health (MOH) its objections towards targeting enforcement proposed in the tobacco bill against children and teenagers.
Although Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh did not specify the tobacco and vape generational end game (GEG) ban, her response was made towards Machang MP Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal, who had raised concerns in his debate on the Supply Bill 2024 about youth vaping and urged KBS to support the GEG.
“On the issue of vape raised by YB Machang and controlling vaping in stadiums and among adolescents and children in Malaysia, the Youth and Sports Ministry has given views to the Ministry of Health to conduct comprehensive and not selective enforcement,” Yeoh said in her winding-up speech at the committee stage of the Supply Bill 2024 in the Dewan Rakyat today.
“This is because KBS believes that it is inappropriate if enforcement were to be targeted only against teenagers and children, without taking into account the conditions in households where they’re exposed to parents or family members who smoke or vape.
“KBS believes that new smoking products like electronic cigarettes or vape must be immediately regulated through a bill that will be drafted,” she added, without using the term “GEG” or the name of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023.
It is unclear why Yeoh raised concerns with enforcement of the GEG or the tobacco and vape control bill at this late stage, as the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill tabled by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government for first reading last June was specifically drafted to take into account such concerns.
Yeoh previously tweeted in July 2022, “our stand on GEG”, in reference to a statement by the parliamentary special select committee (PSSC) on women and children affairs and social development in the 14th Parliament, chaired by Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said then, on its concerns about enforcement of the 2022 tobacco bill potentially violating child rights.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, when tabling the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill last June, told Parliament that this was a new bill that took into account recommendations from the previous Health PSSC discussions in 2022, as well as the latest amendments related to the GEG.
The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill retains the GEG ban on tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007, but, unlike the 2022 bill, the 2023 version proposes lighter punishment of a maximum RM500 fine or community service for offenders from the GEG group. Certain enforcement powers also exclude offences by the GEG group, while personal possession of tobacco or vape products is not an offence for the GEG group either.
Yeoh told Parliament today that KBS decided earlier this month to gazette all premises and facilities under KBS as no-smoking and no-vaping zones, citing the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations under the Food Act 1983.
“Vaping in stadiums is prohibited,” she added.
Wan Ahmad Fayhsal (PN-Machang) suggested that the Rakan Muda programme introduce a hate nicotine or vape campaign to run alongside its anti-drug theme.
“I agree. We will get a bigger budget for Rakan Muda next year and we will ensure that the awareness campaign is implemented. Every time they go out, we will remind them that KBS does not support the smoking or vaping habit,” Yeoh replied.
The youth and sports minister, however, did not elaborate on further measures to curb youth vaping beyond awareness campaigns or vape-free zones in KBS premises, such as blocking promotion, advertising, and marketing of vape products by sports teams or having KBS officials avoid attending sports events by vape companies.
Earlier, Wan Ahmad Fayhsal highlighted Ministry of Health (MOH) statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Survey: Adolescent Health Survey 2022 that showed a significant increase in e-cigarette and vape use among students aged 13 to 17 from 9.8 per cent in 2017 to nearly 15 per cent in 2022.
“Does the government really get so much tax revenue from vape that we are willing to sacrifice the future of our young people?” he said in his debate.
The Opposition MP also rebutted Attorney-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh’s statement that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has consistently viewed, since last year, that the tobacco and vape GEG contravenes Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees equality before the law.
“Actually, the MOH legal advisor told the PSSC that it’s not unconstitutional,” said Wan Ahmad Fayhsal.
CodeBlue reported earlier today former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s statement on his Keluar Sekejap podcast that, according to the Hansard, MOH legal advisor Yang Zaimey Yang Ghazali had told the PSSC on the 2022 tobacco bill in August last year that the GEG does not violate either Article 5 or Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, based on case law.
“If it’s challenged in court, then let the courts decide whether it’s constitutional or not,” said Wan Ahmad Fayhsal.
“Don’t be lackadaisical, KBS. I hope the minister can be stern. We removed the tobacco and alcohol industries from sports; let’s not capitulate to Big Tobacco.”