The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) welcomes passage of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 in the Dewan Rakyat as there was a need for strict, comprehensive regulation of the tobacco and vape industry.
However, we express profound disappointment over the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) decision to drop the generational end game (GEG) provision in the revised bill.
It appears that the MOH had disregarded recommendations by the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) to include the GEG provision. The MOH could have allowed for the democratic process to decide if the GEG was “unconstitutional” by letting MPs debate the provision.
While the bill does prohibit sale of tobacco and vape products to minors, it fails to indicate or even suggest a strategy to achieve a smoke-free (cigarette and vape-free) Malaysia, which the Health Ministry should be championing.
What the bill does is prevent smoking until age 18. It is no secret that 18-year-olds are also among the tobacco and vape industry’s target audience, hence we can expect to see new smokers and vape users from age 18. This would have been addressed with the GEG.
We also wish to point out that the term “smoking devices” is also absent from the bill for reasons unknown. We are aware of a proposal for smoking devices to be regulated by the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry (MITI).
However, we are of the view that smoking devices and vape liquids and gels will be best regulated by the Health Ministry to avoid overlaps in enforcement. Moreover, there are disposable smoking devices sold in the market which come ready made with the device already containing the liquid. This may be an issue if enforcement is carried out by two separate ministries.
We also hope the MOH will explain why the fine for smoking in a smoke-free zone has been reduced from RM10,000 (or imprisonment of up to two years) to RM5,000 (no imprisonment). Is the MOH taking a softer stance on the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on public health?
Going forward, MMA hopes that the MOH will ensure regular, strict enforcement for these policies to be effective. We also hope to see a stronger commitment from the MOH towards public health education, through more extensive anti-smoking and anti-vaping campaigns.
Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz is the president of the Malaysian Medical Association.
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