CEO Morning Brief

Galen Centre: Passage of Anti-smoking Bill Leaves Bitter Taste

Publish date: Fri, 01 Dec 2023, 08:48 AM
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TheEdge CEO Morning Brief

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 30): The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy regrets that recommendations to improve the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 made by the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Health were ignored.

Its chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib said the PSSC had convened at least 13 meetings on the bill under the chairmanship of former health minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

"Despite the fact that the bill was deliberately referred to the PSSC by the current health minister back in June with the intention of producing recommendations to improve the proposed legislation, these recommendations were not even heard, much less debated on. The effort was barely recognised and ended up as a one liner during the winding-up speech (on the bill in the Dewan Rakyat).

"The earlier referral to the PSSC now appears to have been a feint, deceptive and even disrespectful," Azrul said in a statement on Thursday.

He also noted that the government had failed to address the direct accusations by Members of Parliament on the tobacco and vape industry influence, interference and threats on the policy-making process.

“Considering Malaysia's obligations under the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it would be a serious violation if any of it were remotely true. The sudden dropping of the devices used for vaping from the proposed legislation and the weak argument supporting it certainly implied this and these concerns warranted a proper response or defence,” he added.

The anti-smoking bill, which was proposed in 2022, was finally approved by the Dewan Rakyat earlier on Thursday. The bill was tabled for the third and final reading by Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

It was unanimously passed via a voice vote, after an intense debate session among the MPs where the majority of them expressed their disappointment over the removal of the generational endgame provision from the bill, the absence of the PSSC on Health's recommendations and alleged interference by the tobacco and vape industries.

Azrul said that despite its shortcomings, the passage of the bill marked the beginning of the end of a decades-long track to ensure that Malaysia finally has a standalone legislation covering tobacco, smoking products and nicotine delivery systems such as vape and e-cigarettes.

"It is a major achievement. It will bring our laws and regulations up to speed as they are fast falling behind the challenges posed by evolving technologies and innovation. It forms the foundation of future amendments and regulations," he said.

"The nicotine vape gap will also finally be on its way to being plugged. But similarly to Pandora's Box, the self-created lacunae has already released serious harm, particularly among children and minors. It will take time to close,” he added.

Read also:
Dewan Rakyat passes revised tobacco bill via voice vote

Source: TheEdge - 1 Dec 2023

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