KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 – Subang MP Wong Chen has called for an increase in excise duties on cigarettes, after the generational end game (GEG) was dropped from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) lawmaker expressed disappointment that the GEG proposal to ban tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007 – deemed by Attorney-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh to be unconstitutional – was decoupled from the new version of the tobacco bill tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
“I hope that the GEG will resurface soon. Tobacco smoking is fiscally bad for the government as the excise duty collected from tobacco is insufficient to pay for the costs of treatment of smoking related diseases,” Wong told CodeBlue yesterday.
“Essentially if we maintain the status quo and not pursue the GEG, the government will continue to subsidise the bad habit of smoking.
“The only other acceptable political compromise to dropping the GEG is to increase the excise duty rate for tobacco.
“During the debate on this legislation, some MPs have told me that they will try to push for greater fines. Some MPs will also ask for a provision to regulate vape devices, not just the ingredients.”
Wong, a government backbencher, told CodeBlue nonetheless that he would vote in favour of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill as it’s a government bill.
“However, in the debate, many will try to extract better terms from the government.”
Cigarette taxes have not been raised for eight years since 2015. Budget 2024, which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat last Monday, merely proposed a new tax on chewing tobacco.
In 2015, the tobacco excise duty was increased by 42.8 per cent; together with the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), the overall tax on cigarettes rose from 28 sen per stick in 2014 to 40 sen in 2015.
At a media briefing in Parliament yesterday, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa claimed that the GEG proposal has simply been postponed, and not completely dropped, even as she attributed the omission of the generational smoking ban from the bill to the Attorney-General’s views that it’s unconstitutional.
“But if the GEG is ‘unconstitutional’ now, wouldn’t it still be ‘unconstitutional’ later? And, if the GEG can be ‘made’ constitutional later, why couldn’t we have addressed it now?” former Health deputy director-general Dr Christopher Lee posted on X yesterday.
The new version of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill omitted not just the GEG, but also dropped all provisions related to e-cigarette and vape devices, or “smoking devices”. However, control of “smoking substances” is retained.
Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal, who is also Machang MP, described the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill as “very weak”.
“Today, I asked the Ministry of Finance again, how much taxes can be collected from the government?” he posted on X yesterday, referring to the tax of 40 sen per ml on vape liquids containing nicotine that came into effect since last April.
“Is all that worth sacrificing the people’s health and future? Don’t betray young people!!!”.
Tanjong Karang MP Dr Zulkafperi Hanapi, also from Perikatan Nasional (PN), told CodeBlue that despite the decoupling of the GEG, he would “have to support the new bill because the old one is not available anymore”.
British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Berhad’s share price rose by 38 sen, or 4.24 per cent, by the close of markets yesterday, after the tabling of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill.
The bill is expected to be debated later today at second reading, the second last day before the end of the current Dewan Rakyat meeting on Thursday.