Implement accurate policies before embarking on GEG, urges FPMPAM


LEGISLATORS on both sides of the House (Dewan Rakyat) have been urged to consider implementing policies that have been proven to work before embarking on the Generational End Game (GEG).

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) president Dr Steven Chow said pushing the GEG without preparatory work will be a dangerous social experiment.

He added that the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 seems to have totally disregarded the overwhelming scientific data that Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) can work with the proper regulatory framework in place.

Dr Chow said this was comprehensively documented in the Report of the Royal College of Physicians, UK 2016 (Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction).

As such, Chow said it would be worthwhile for the legislators to revisit Provision 9(1) of this Bill, as it has the effect of outlawing the dissemination of the information contained in the report and also makes its discussion by anyone a criminal offence.

In line with that, he said FPMPAM also appeals to the legislators to consider whether they are taking a short-cut to GEG without the benefit of prior sustainable policy-driven programmes on THR and making medical intervention as the focus of smoking and vaping cessation policy and not criminalisation.

“The aim behind the Bill dubbed “GEG”, is to achieve the long-term objective of promoting tobacco-free future generations of Malaysians. This is undoubtedly a desirable outcome.  

“However, it must be remembered that the two frontline countries in GEG, namely New Zealand and Australia are first world developed nations.  

“They have spent decades implementing sustainable policies, regulations and THR programmes in preparation for this move,” he said in a statement today.

Dr Chow also highlighted that in Malaysia, we have yet to embark on any meaningful THR programs.  

He said this is in contrast to our previous experience with opioid addiction, where our harm reduction (HR) programme commenced in 2006, had been a gamechanger resulting in long-term recovery of addicts, reducing drug-related arrests and HIV death rates in IV drug-users.

Commenting further, Dr Chow emphasised that the dangers and consequences of tobacco products, especially combustible cigarettes are well documented.  

He said it is responsible for over 8 million deaths per year worldwide.

“Smoking, vaping and the use of tobacco products has major health consequences and are diseases of addiction.

“Like all addictions, they are amenable to proper medical intervention and treatment by specially trained professionals and not by criminalisation of the addict,” he said.

Dr Chow noted that the Bill has a fundamental flaw and it has a provision that could potentially criminalise the young child who is caught in possession of a cigarette or a vaping device.  

He stressed that this criminalisation approach is unlikely to work in the long run.

He said there are also no provisions in the Bill to address the current generation of smokers and vapers with sustainable THR programmes.

“Our experience with community-based medical treatment for opioid addiction have shown that a specially trained nation-wide network of general practitioners (GPs) and family physicians are the people best equipped to handle this task.  

“They are also the best first point of care for children caught experimenting with smoking and vaping.

“However, there are no provisions in the Bill to facilitate and to empower the medical professional for this task,” he added.

Therefore, Chow said our message to the present and next generation of Malaysians should be, “Don’t start, if you have started, do stop and if you cannot stop, seek help”.

The Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, presently being tabled in Parliament calls for the prohibition of smoking of tobacco product or substitute tobacco product and the prohibition of the use of smoking device, by any person that was born in 2007 and after.

Many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have joined growing calls for members of parliament (MPs) to unanimously support the Bill proposed by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

On July 27, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tabled the Bill for its first reading at Dewan Rakyat.

The second reading is scheduled to be held today, and voting may take place tomorrow (Aug 2).