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Putrajaya slammed for further delaying tobacco bill despite absence of law to curb sales to minors

A public health activist says the bill is critically needed in the absence of any law to curb smoking among the youth.

A public health pressure group campaigning to stop the smoking habit has hit back at the government for delaying the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, saying it comes as Putrajaya’s move to delist vape nicotine as a controlled substance three months ago is showing worrying results.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said the bill should have been allowed for a second reading in the Dewan Rakyat today so that it can be debated openly and passed during the current parliamentary meeting.

“No more excuses, ifs and buts. The government and MPs must be pragmatic, find both the right compromises and the moral courage to step up and do the right thing,” its CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said, hours after Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa pushed the bill to the parliamentary special select committee on health.

The committee is chaired by former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Dubbed the “generational endgame”, the bill, which includes a ban on tobacco use and purchase by those born after 2007 to stop the smoking habit altogether in the future, had triggered protests from some Pakatan Harapan leaders as well as the tobacco lobby when it was first tabled last year by then health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Azrul said the tobacco control bill is more critical now following the health minister’s controversial move to remove nicotine in the production of vape and e-cigarettes.

He added that the government could even temporarily shelve the generational endgame provisions so that the bill can be passed without delay.

“We urgently need the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 to be passed in Parliament now.”

He said since removing nicotine as a controlled substance, there are “absolutely no safeguards” to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes and vape products to minors.

“We are already seeing the consequences. Children, teenagers, youth and especially young women are now the targets of aggressive promotional, marketing and sales campaigns by retailers and manufacturers. More vape and e-cigarettes are being produced, which are deliberately made to look colourful and have sweet juices and designs which appeal to young people,” he said.

He also cited studies by the health ministry which showed more teenagers taking up vape and e-cigarettes, “becoming addicted to nicotine and even becoming seriously ill as a result of respiratory diseases”. 

“Why is the government ignoring its own data and evidence?” asked Azrul.

“The unregulated and unchecked status of vape and e-cigarettes constitutes a clear and present public health threat in Malaysia. None of these issues or problems can be properly addressed and overcome without proper legislation in place,” Azrul emphasised.

Last week, Perikatan Nasional’s Tanjong Karang MP Zulkafperi Hanapi submitted a motion to debate the recent case of suspected nicotine poisoning involving a two-year-old girl. 

“This motion is urgent as nicotine is already in the market and there is no legislation regulating its use.

“This motion is also a matter of public interest as it (nicotine) can be abused by anyone, including babies, children, schoolchildren, women or pregnant women,” Zulkafperi said.

Source: Malaysian Now

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