CEO Morning Brief

GEG Removal From Tobacco Bill Draws Criticism From MPs on Both Sides

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Publish date: Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 08:49 AM
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TheEdge CEO Morning Brief

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 29): Members of Parliament from both sides of the aisle have criticised the government's decision to remove the generation endgame (GEG) component in the revised tobacco bill.

During the debate on the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang) dismissed Attorney General Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh's comment that the GEG is unconstitutional.

"If the bill indeed contradicts the constitution, other parties can bring this to the court and claim it as ultra vires, and let the court decide," he said. "The AG should not act like the gatekeeper. If this is the case, what's the purpose of having the Parliament? Just let the Cabinet and AG make the law on their own."

Hassan also said MPs should have the chance to debate the GEG component, even if it is rejected, as it is part of the democratic process.

"But we haven't even started to debate (on the GEG component), and it has already been removed. That shows we have already succumbed to the lobbyists from Big Tobacco and the vape industry."

Yuneswaran Ramaraj (PH-Segamat) also described the removal of the GEG component as a backward step and questioned whether the government is bowing down to the lobbyists.

"We have 27,000 people who died due to chronic diseases caused by smoking.... I was made to know that the tobacco tax only generates about RM2.3 billion a year, but we spend RM8 billion to treat smoking-related diseases," he said. "So, what is the justification that we save the tobacco (industry) instead of people's lives?"

Yuneswaran urged Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa to reconsider the decision, and include the GEG component in the next parliamentary sitting without fear.

Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah (PN-Langkawi) questioned whether the removal of the GEG component is due to two ministers in the Cabinet blocking the bill, as revealed by former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Ahmad Yunus Hairi (PN-Kuala Langat) also expressed his disappointment at the removal of the GEG component, as the representative of the AG's Chambers didn't raise constitutional issues during the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) proceedings.

"I, as one of the members of PSSC, during the 11 meetings held by PSSC, didn't have any serious issues related to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution. Not even the representative from AGC raised it," said Ahmad Yunus.

On Tuesday, Zaliha tabled the revised Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill in the Dewan Rakyat but without the GEG component.

According to her, the government is setting aside the GEG component in the revised bill to accelerate its legislation while enacting regulatory control over tobacco and vape products and discouraging their use by minors.

Tuesday's tabling marks the Health Ministry's third attempt to legislate the tobacco bill.

The first version of the tobacco bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in July 2022 by Khairy, with the aim of prohibiting the sale and use of conventional tobacco products by those born on or after Jan 1, 2007. However, it was referred to the PSSC for review after two days of debate, which drew complaints and suggestions from MPs.

After the unity government took control of Putrajaya, Zaliha tabled the second version of the bill on June 12, 2023, which was again referred to the PSSC after the first reading.

For more Parliament stories, click here.

Read also:
Revised tobacco bill tabled for first reading in Dewan Rakyat, generational ban removed
Decoupling of GEG from tobacco bill to speed up regulations on vape products, says minister

Source: TheEdge - 30 Nov 2023

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