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Dewan Rakyat passes Control of Smoking Products and Public Health Bill

Publish date: Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 03:44 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: After a long and arduous process, the Control of Smoking Products and Public Health Bill which was first proposed in 2022 has finally received the nod from Dewan Rakyat, today.

The bill, when tabled for the third and final reading today by Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, was unanimously passed by the members of parliament (MP) via voice vote.

The bill was also passed after an intense debate session among the MPs, where majority of them expressed their disappointment over the removal of generational end game (GEG) provision from the bill.

These included MPs from both sides of the divide, including former health minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

During the debates yesterday (Nov 29), Dr Dzulkefly, who was a part of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on the bill had described the removal of the GEG clause as "disappointing".

He said the ambition of reducing smoking prevalence from 21 per cent to 5 per cent in the country by 2045 had become an even further reality without the age-restricted ban on smoking.

"However, as bitter as it is to swallow, we know this is the first time that a standalone legislation is being introduced to really control and regulate not just cigarettes but also other smoking products.

"Even though we are disappointed that the GEG has been dropped, I still want to implore all MPs to have a sense of responsibility (to accept this bill)."

Dr Zaliha, in expressing her hopes for lawmakers to approve the bill, added that any shortcomings in the bill could be improved overtime.

"I would like to emphasise that the bill must be approved today and I hope that we (MPs) can welcome it graciously.

"There is also time for us to improve the bill if we see any (loopholes) from a regulatory perspective," she said when tabling the final reading of the bill, today.

On Tuesday, Dr Zaliha tabled the third and latest version of the bill. However, the provision to prohibit Malaysians born after 2007 from buying or consuming nicotine products was dropped from the bill.

The bill only mentioned the prohibition of selling any tobacco products, smoking substances or substitute tobacco products to any person who is a minor, under Clause 13.

It also prohibits a minor from smoking or using any tobacco product under Clause 17.

However, the second version of the bill, which was first introduced in June this year, included clauses prohibiting any person born on Jan 1, 2007 onwards from smoking any tobacco or substitute tobacco products, or from using any smoking device with any smoking substance.

Following this, Dr Zaliha said the removal was dropped after taking into account the views from the Attorney-General's of Chambers, who cited potential constitutional arguments.

She added that the AG had said the provision would contravene Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which touches on equality matters.

The bill was first introduced in 2022 by former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin which seeked to ban those born 2007 onwards from smoking, buying or having tobacco and vaping products.

However, several parliamentarians have raised concerns on the wide-ranging powers that the legislation confers on enforcement officers.

The bill was then referred to several PSSCs, including Women, Children and Social Development as well as Health, Science and Innovation.

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