Parliament’s Special Select Committee scrutinises Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill

It will include a ‘generation end game’ aimed at prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to anyone born after 2005

by FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic by TMR FILE

THE Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Health, Science and Innovation will initiate a series of proceedings starting today to review and scrutinise the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill.

Intended to be tabled in Parliament in the middle of this year, the bill will include a “generation end game” aimed at prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to anyone born after 2005.

The committee will review the wording of the bill as well as its proposed implementation while taking into account the different views and input from all relevant stakeholders, including those from the tobacco and vape industries and civil society.

Today’s proceedings will start with an initial briefing by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar and Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to examine the government’s intention, the draft of the bill itself, implementation and enforcement plans and the feasibility of the “generation end game” in the context of Malaysia.

The Health Ministry (MoH) has expressed its intention that the proposed generational smoking ban was the next step toward reducing cancer cases and improving cancer treatment access in the country.

Tobacco is reportedly responsible for about a fifth of cancer cases in Malaysia, with the annual cost of treating lung cancer from smoking is estimated at RM132.7 million.

PSSC Health, Science and Innovation chairman and Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen (picture) said while the bill is important for public health, it must be reviewed and analysed holistically to review its impact on the economy and social behaviour.

“This is to ensure its feasibility, proper implementation and also if there are better alternatives, especially to better regulating or harm reduction, rather than an outright ban,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He added that all this must be reviewed in the context of the high incidence of illicit cigarettes, reportedly up to 63.8% in 2020 and 57.3% in 2021.

This meant that more than half of the cigarettes on the market were illicit, and having a policy that banned sales to the youth would just push the industry underground, where the youth would instead obtain illegal cigarettes with ingredients that are not properly regulated.

“These proceedings are to get a substantive discussion on the matter involving the different stakeholders and to release our recommendations and possible solutions to the government.

“The PSSC can be the channel for open dialogue on national policy matters, to get bi-partisan inputs and buy-ins as well as ensure that legislation coming out of Parliament is substantive and covers all necessary perspectives and possible loopholes to ensure it is not abused,” he added.

Seven external experts appointed to advise the committee on this matter are Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control 2018-2022 president and Action on Smoking and Health Committee, Malaysian Medical Association 2013-2022 chairman Prof Datuk Dr Lekhraj Rampal; Consultant Respiratory Physician and Technical Advisor to MoH on tobacco control Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, MyWatch and Malaysian Women’s Action on Tobacco Control and Health president Roslizawati Md Ali, Universiti Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (Pro-tobacco Control) chief coordinator Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin, Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia president Dr Steven Chow, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association president Wong Teu Hoon and Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib.