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Ensure Generational Endgame policy achievable in decreasing smoking prevalence in Malaysia, says consumer body

Publish date: Tue, 19 Sep 2023, 04:46 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Policymakers should delve deeper into the Generational Endgame (GEG) policy, ensuring it offers a practical and attainable method to decrease smoking prevalence in Malaysia.

The Malaysian Consumer Choice Center (MCCC) representative Tarmizi Anuwar said the government also needs to carry out a more meaningful and quality engagement process to ensure that every stakeholder is involved adequately in the consultation process. 

"We do not want just to be given a 10-to-15-minute presentation but not have any further discussion after that," Tarmizi said in a statement.

CCC recently published a report entitled Roundtable Discussion on Smoking Product Control in Public Health: Room for Improvement.

The main purpose of the round table discussion is to get alternative views from experts in various fields and comprehensively assess and scrutinise the bill considering health, legal, economic and feasibility aspects. 

In addition, this report aims to provide proposals for improving the bill to the special select committee, the Ministry of Health and policymakers.

"Policymakers should examine the essence of this report because our concern is that this tobacco bill will end up with an increase in illegal trade and the lack of a comprehensive impact assessment, especially on consumers," Tarmizi said.

Taman Medan assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin thinks the GEG policy will fail due to lacking resources and human capital. 

This is based on his experience dealing with the Ministry of Health while serving as a member of the Penang state executive council, which tried to make Penang a smoke-free zone but was unsuccessful.

"In Malaysia, the illegal trade is rampant, and from my point of view, GEG will fail, just like how Penang tried to do it before. We need to focus on how to control smoking. 

"There are currently no vaping regulations and no regulations on nicotine levels. Get support from everyone, not only from enforcement but also from the community. 

"Also, instead of focusing on introducing new bills. Restaurants still have people smoking. Enforcement needs to be there. I think supporting community education is much more important than imposing new laws," he said.

Petaling Jaya Coffee Shop Association president Keu Kok Meng said that until now, the Ministry of Health or law enforcement could not control the current laws, such as smoking in restaurants.

"In the coffee shop, I do not see law enforcement coming to ban people from smoking. The government has made all the advertisements, but people still smoke. 

"Most importantly, the responsibility of enforcement should be done by enforcement agencies and not coffee shops," he said.

According to Bait Al Amanah research director Benedict Weerasena, until May 2021, illegal cigarettes continue to increase and emphasise the importance of enforcement to deal with the issue of illicit trade before introducing the GEG policy. 

He said the impact on GEG for retailers is lost revenue, compliance costs, equipment costs, monitoring costs, opportunity costs and legal fees. 

"Based on our study, the total enforcement cost for GEG is estimated at RM303 million per year, including tobacco track costs, public awareness campaigns, administrative costs, and additional enforcement to curb

the growth of the illegal cigarette market.

"We do not want to be like South Africa in March 2020 when their government introduced a ban on the sale of tobacco products. But 93 per cent of smokers can continue to buy cigarettes, and the average price has increased by 250 per cent. 

"If this matter is not controlled, it creates a negative perception that our country prioritises smuggling over legitimate sources," he said.

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