Anti-Smoking Bill: A Holistic Approach To Prioritising Public Health — Academy Of Medicine Of Malaysia

The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia says the anti-smoking bill’s prohibition on the advertising of tobacco/ vape products as a “quit-smoking product” will prevent vape companies from promoting e-cigarettes as a method to help smokers switch.

The latest Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 has stated the prohibition of selling, as well as substituting, tobacco products or smoking substance to any person who is a minor in Clause 13.

The Bill also prohibits minors from smoking or using any tobacco products in Clause 17. This newly proposed anti-smoking bill also states that any substances or combination of substances for smoking will be part of the prohibited list.

However, the generational end game (GEG) policy which prohibits Malaysians born from January 1, 2007, onwards from consuming or buying any type of smoking products has been removed from the bill. 

The much sought-after GEG Bill, which secured some 9.2 million signatures in support, was removed as it was stipulated to have contradicted with the provisions under Article 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that every person shall be equal under the law and have equal protection of law.

The Attorney-General’s Chamber (AGC) has stated that the GEG will create unequal legal treatment. 

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa has highlighted that comprehensive control over tobacco products should be prioritised, as well as enacting regulatory control over tobacco and vape products to discourage its use by minors.

The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM), being a professional body working closely with the Ministry of Health, universities, and specialty societies and colleges, has always been committed to disseminate knowledge and information to the public on health–related matters. 

We believe that the public should be given the assurance that the newly proposed Bill will assure a smooth transition towards a more tobacco–conscious society.

The prohibition of advertising any “tobacco product, smoking substance, or substitute tobacco product” as a “quit smoking product” in the latest Bill will prevent vape companies from promoting e-cigarettes or vapes with nicotine — which do not contain or burn tobacco — as a method to help smokers switch to vaping from smoking conventional cigarettes.

Community intervention is crucial in providing reinforcements, as smoking behaviour is often largely determined by social context. Parents need to educate their children on the hazards of tobacco, tobacco products, and vape, as well as report any shops selling tobacco and vape to minors.

We should continue to educate people that vape and e-cigarettes, with their attendant dangers of lung injury and nicotine addiction, should not be promoted as a safe alternative to smoking, and put a full stop to the marketing tactics by the vape industry, which is evident by packaging and flavours targeting younger demographics.

This will in turn lure young people and children to start vaping, opening the way to eventual nicotine addiction and smoking. 

We agree that actions are needed to curb smoking, but the focus should also be on tackling illicit tobacco products, which has not been addressed in the GEG policy.

This could lead to illegal cigarette trading activities, counterfeit products bearing the trademark of legal manufacturers without their consent, and smuggled products which are produced legally by a manufacturer but diverted and sold illegally elsewhere other than their intended consumers. 

The affordability and accessibility of these products will lead to increased use, which will then result in dire health and economic consequences (due to the money spent on treating their health effects), not to mention the equally bad effects of exposure to second-hand smoke. 

We at AMM strongly advocate the safeguarding (especially vulnerable population groups susceptible to smoking-related harms) and promotion of public health, while maintaining societal harmony.

The newly amended Bill should emphasise the hazards of tobacco products and smoking substances, so that the nation can be navigated with integrity and responsibility. 

We, the under-signed:

  • Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (Prof Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, Master)
  • College of Anaesthesiologists (Prof Dr Ina Ismiarti Shariffuddin, President)
  • College of Dental Specialists (Dr Ahmad Sharifuddin Mohd Asari, President)
  • College of Emergency Physicians (Dr Alzamani Mohammad Idrose, President)
  • College of Otorhinolaryngologists – Head and Neck Surgeons (Dr Zahirrudin Zakaria, President)
  • College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Prof Dr Siti Zawiah Omar, President)
  • College of Ophthalmologists (Prof Dr Hajah Shatriah Ismail, President)
  • College of Paediatrics (Prof Dr Thong Meow Keong, President)
  • College of Pathologists (Emeritus Professor Dr Cheong Soon Keng, President)
  • College of Physicians (Prof Dr Paras Doshi, President)
  • College of Public Health Medicine (Dr Anita Suleiman, President)
  • College of Radiology (Prof Dr Norlisah Mohd Ramli, President)
  • College of Surgeons (Dr Siow Sze Li, President)

We would like to thank the AMM Ethical Professional Practice committee for initiating this write-up:

  • Prof Zilfalil Alwi
  • Assoc Professor Dr Erwin Jiayuan Khoo
  • Dr Andre Das
  • Dr Ariffin Marzuki Mokhtar

The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, embracing 12 colleges and 24 chapters, is a registered professional, non-profit organisation representing medical specialists in Malaysia and has gained recognition as an organisation representing all medical specialists in the country.

The AMM has been actively collaborating with the Ministry of Health and the Malaysian Medical Council in matters pertaining to medical specialist training and continuous professional development.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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