Malaysia Dateline

PSSC to review and scrutinise the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill

PSSC to review and scrutinise the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill. The Special Parliamentary Select Committee (PSSC) on Health, Science & Innovation will initiate a series of proceedings starting 7 April 2022 to review and scrutinise the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill which the government intends to table in Parliament in the middle of this year which will also include a “generation end game” aiming at prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to anyone born after 2005.

These proceedings are important in order for the committee to review the wordings of the Bill as well as its proposed implementation while taking into account the different views and input from all relevant stakeholders including those from the tobacco and vape industry and the civil society.

Tomorrow’s proceeding will start with a initial briefing by the Minister of Health himself YB Khairy Jamaluddin and the Director General of Health Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham on the Bill itself to examine the government’s intention, draft of the Bill itself, implementation and enforcement plans, and even the feasibility of the “generation end game” in the context of Malaysia.

PSSC to review and scrutinise the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill
MP Bandar Kuching Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen

To ensure the discussion is robust and substantive, based on the authority given to us under the Parliamentary Standing Order, we have appointed an external expert panel to advise us on this matter which consist of:

(1) Prof. Datuk Dr. Lekhraj Rampal –
President Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control 2018-2022 and Chairman,Action on Smoking and Health Committee Malaysian Medical Association 2013 to 2022

(2) Dr. Helmy Haja Mydin – Consultant Respiratory Physician & Technical Advisor to MOH on tobacco control.

(3) Puan Roslizawati Md Ali.

  • President, MyWATCH & Malaysian Women’s Action on Tobacco Control and Health

(4) Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin –
Chief coordinator, University Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (Pro-Tobacco Control).

(5) Dr. Steven Chow —
President, Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia.

(6) Wong Teu Hoon –
President, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association

(7) Azrul Mohd Khalib – Chief Executive, Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy.

The Ministry of Health has expressed their intention that the proposed generational smoking ban was the next step towards reducing cancer cases and improving cancer treatment access in the country. Tobacco is reportedly responsible for about a fifth of cancer cases in Malaysia, with the annual cost of treating lung cancer from smoking estimated at RM132.7 million.

While we understand the importance of this Bill on the public health sense, it must be reviewed and analysed from a holistic view to review its impact not just in terms of public health, but also the economy, and social behaviour. This is to ensure its feasibility, proper implementation and also if there are better alternatives especially to better regulate or harm reduction rather than an outright ban when it comes to the “generation end game”.

All this must be reviewed also in the context of the high incidence of illicit cigarettes reportedly up to 63.8% in 200 and 57.3% in 2021. That means more than half of cigarettes in the market are illicit and having a policy that bans the sales of it to the youth, will it just push the industry underground where our youth will instead obtain illegal cigarettes whose ingredients are not properly regulated and are harmful.

That is why we are initiating such proceedings to get a substantive discussion on the matter involving the different stakeholders and to release our recommendations and possible solutions to the government.

This is the proper process and this way our Parliament will become a working institution that plays a constructive role in the governance of the country. The special select parliamentary committees can be the channel for open dialogue on national policy matters, to get bi-partisan inputs and buy-ins as well to ensure that legislation coming out from Parliament is substantive and covers all necessary perspective and possible loopholes to ensure it is not abused.