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Tobacco Bill With GEG Clears First Hurdle In Cabinet

The Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 has passed its first hurdle, after today’s Cabinet meeting approved the tobacco/ vape control bill retaining the GEG to be tabled for first reading next month in the current parliamentary meeting.

The Cabinet of the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (centre) at the Unity Government Cabinet Ministers Retreat at Seri Perdana Complex, Putrajaya, on January 15, 2023. Picture by Fath Rizal/ Prime Minister’s Office of Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 – The tobacco and vape control bill with generational end game (GEG) provisions has received Cabinet approval for tabling next month in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting.

A Cabinet meeting earlier today approved the draft retaining the GEG that bans tobacco and vape products for anyone born from 2007.

“With GEG, will be tabled for first reading – this session,” a source told CodeBlue on condition of anonymity.

Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni confirmed that the Cabinet meeting approved the tabling of the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 with the GEG in Parliament.

“Yes from Cabinet – they accepted the draft with GEG,” Lukanisman told CodeBlue.

The Dewan Rakyat is scheduled to resume sitting for seven days from June 6 to 15. 

The National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) announced yesterday that its 2020 annual report – focusing on human rights issues that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic – is scheduled to be debated in Parliament on June 6.

Should debate on Suhakam’s report take up the whole day, that leaves five or six days for debate and passage of the tobacco bill in the Dewan Rakyat, excluding the Health White Paper that the government also plans to table for debate in the current parliamentary meeting.

CodeBlue poll among 31 government and Opposition MPs earlier this month revealed split support for the bill – not along party lines, but personal inclinations. Despite the Ministry of Health (MOH) previously briefing MPs last March on the bill, most of the legislators who reserved their stance in CodeBlue’s survey wanted to wait to read the bill after its tabling.

Passage of the bill in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting is not guaranteed, especially if it retains the controversial GEG. 

The previous government tabled the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 for first reading on July 27 last year, just six days before the end of that parliamentary meeting. 

MPs from the 14th Parliament complained about the tobacco bill being bulldozed through, forcing then-Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to send the proposed law to a parliamentary special select committee (PSSC)

Despite the PSSC issuing its recommendations for amendments, the Ismail Sabri Yaakob government did not re-table the revised tobacco bill in the following October parliamentary meeting before the dissolution of Parliament for the 15th general election.

This Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill 2023 is a new bill that will be tabled in a new Parliament, the 15th Parliament.

Kota Baru MP Takiyuddin Hassan from Perikatan Nasional warned the government yesterday not to surprise Opposition MPs with last-minute bills, citing as an example the Insolvency Amendment Bill 2023 that went for first reading last May 22 and was debated and passed the next day.

According to Parliament’s website, there are no bills pending readings; all bills on the docket have been passed – which should, technically, leave enough time for MPs to debate the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill if it is tabled early between June 6 and 8 in next month’s stretch of sittings.

However, if MPs still feel that they need more time to deliberate on the tobacco bill, the government may choose to send it to the Health PSSC chaired by former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad. This will likely further delay passage of the bill to the next parliamentary meeting in October. 

Despite the precious few days left for debate and passage of the tobacco bill, Bentong MP Young Syefura Othman, a member of the Health PSSC, tweeted last Tuesday that the parliamentary committee would “focus” on the bill, besides the Health White Paper.

If the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill is tabled but not passed in the current parliamentary meeting, this will leave vape and e-cigarettes completely unregulated for even longer, after the government removed liquid nicotine from the Poisons Act 1952 last March 31 to enable the taxation of e-liquids with nicotine from April 1. There are currently no regulations whatsoever on nicotine vape that is legally available for sale to anyone, including children and teens aged under 18.

Source: Code Blue

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