KBS Minister Hannah Yeoh says the tobacco bill’s referral to a PSSC isn’t “a waste of time”. YBMK’s special advisor Kelvin Yii says PSSC review is to prevent “any unintended consequences”, even though the 2023 bill was drafted from an earlier PSSC review.
PETALING JAYA, June 20 – Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh and Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s special advisor Dr Kelvin Yii today defended the referral of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 to a parliamentary special select committee (PSSC).
The DAP lawmakers defended the tobacco bill’s referral to the Health PSSC after first reading in the Dewan Rakyat last June 12, even though the government decision means continued legal access to e-cigarettes and vape for children and youths below 18 since last March 31, when liquid nicotine was removed from control under the Poisons Act 1952.
“For Cabinet, we have collective responsibility, and it has already been sent to the select committee, so we want to honour that process,” Yeoh told reporters at an “Empowering Minds for the Future” event organised by Doctor Anywhere in Bandar Utama here today.
“Sending bills to select committees is not a waste of time. It actually saves time because you have everybody working on it together before it is being tabled for debate.”
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Yii, who was at the same event, said he has the same opinion as Yeoh.
CodeBlue asked Yeoh whether she thinks that liquid nicotine should be reinstated immediately back into the Poisons List – something which has been demanded by former Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad and the Malaysian Medical Association following the referral of the tobacco bill to the Health PSSC chaired by Dzulkefly.
“My stand will be the same as the Minister of Health because, like I say, collective responsibility,” Yeoh replied.
Dr Zaliha has not issued a statement to date to say whether or not liquid and gel nicotine will be reinstated into the Poisons List. Nor has the health minister promised a second reading of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill in the next parliamentary meeting that begins in October.
“I still stand strong on the importance of having proper tobacco control and regulation, and this of course, includes vapes and commercial cigarettes, on top of a game changer policy, GEG, where we close the doors to stop young people from being part of this addiction,” said Dr Yii, referring to the bill’s proposed generational end game (GEG) ban on tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007.
“However, this bill itself needs strong bipartisan support, and not only bipartisan support, it needs buy-in from all stakeholders, including industry players and those who will be affected – [I’m] talking about industry, businesses, and the general public.
“Because for good public health policy to be implemented, we need the confidence and buy-in from (inaudible). As much as I prefer it to be passed in Parliament at a faster rate, but I also recognise the importance that all stakeholders need to buy into the idea for its effective implementation,” added the health minister’s special advisor.
Dr Yii pushed the responsibility of ensuring that “every word of the bill itself reflects what MOH (Ministry of Health) wants to do” to the Health PSSC chaired by Dzulkefly.
“It’s very important so that what we want to carry out, no matter how noble the intention is, we wouldn’t have any unintended consequences,” said the Bandar Kuching MP and Pakatan Harapan (PH) Youth chief.
Dr Yii’s remarks today appeared to contradict what he previously said last June 11 about “being involved first hand in polishing the bill” through two PSSCs to make several amendments to ensure that the bill “achieves its intended target without any unintended consequences”.
The two PSSCs from the 14th Parliament were the health, science and innovation select committee chaired by Dr Yii, which held stakeholder engagements before the first iteration of the tobacco bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat, and the select committee led by then-Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin that made recommendations for amendments to the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 after second reading.
The Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 was drafted based on the recommendations by the PSSC chaired by Khairy, but was still sent to the Health PSSC in the current 15th Parliament even before tabling for debate.
“With that said, the MOH is committed to ensuring the passage of this bill, and it even got approval from Cabinet to have it be tabled. This shows that the Cabinet and this government is committed to addressing this, especially to find ways to get all buy-ins from all relevant stakeholders to ensure successful implementation,” Dr Yii claimed.
The DAP lawmaker held that one of the major hurdles facing the tobacco bill is its implementation. Giving an example, Dr Yii drew attention to the Malaysian Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association’s (MSCSPGA) concerns regarding the bill.
“One of the major issues is the implementation issue, for example, the coffeeshops association has raised concerns on what ‘punca kuasa’ (source of authority) they have to ask people for their identification. And then there are concerns on legal implications if they do not do that. So, as I said, in order for us to properly implement the policy, no matter how noble, we need their buy-in,” said the Bandar Kuching MP.
“That is where the select committee will engage with them. And then with MOH, we’re more than open to explain the mechanism of implementation and framework of enforcement so that we get not just bipartisan (support) from political figures, but more importantly a buy-in from those impacted by the policies.”
The New Straits Times reported last May 29 that MSCSPGA supported the health minister’s agenda to reduce the number of smokers in Malaysia, but that the association had asked that Dr Zaliha consult them as well. MSCSPGA urged the government to conduct proper and thorough engagements with everyone who would be impacted by the tobacco bill.
When asked by a reporter as to whether there is a timeline for the second reading of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill, Dr Yii held that the Health PSSC will have to first issue a report on the bill that will be sent to the MOH, and then to Parliament.
“This will be brought back to, after all engagement has been done by the select committee, as instructed by Parliament, the select committee will come up with a report that will be tabled firstly to MOH, then of course to Parliament.
“From there, the Cabinet will have deliberation of when they want to table it, and we are looking at tabling it as soon as possible to address two main issues: Number one, the lacuna in the law, and number two, a progressive policy to stop our young people from this harmful addiction.”
Dzulkefly recently told CodeBlue that the Health PSSC planned to meet on the tobacco bill this week, besides planning to engage a few more stakeholders, namely the Bar Council, tobacco and vape industry representatives, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Source: Code Blue