Kuala Lumpur, 15 August 2022 — As the Parliamentary Special Select Committee formed specifically to review and suggest recommendations for the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 begins meeting this week, it must consider how the proposed legislation will not only be supported by the Members of Parliament, but most importantly, ensure that concerns regarding checks and balances against heavy-handed enforcement, and misuse, are responded to and addressed.
“Clause 17 singles out individuals born on 1 January 2007 onwards and makes it an offense for them to smoke, vape or possesses any tobacco product, smoking substance, substitute tobacco product or smoking device,” pointed out Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive Officer for the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy. “This clause makes the proposed legislation vulnerable to accusations of selective prosecutive, creates stigma and discrimination, and marginalises a group of people who will need support and assistance.”
“Despite our best efforts, in the future there will be people in the GEG group who smoke and vape, and become addicted to nicotine. Should they be punished?”
“The legislation should ensure that it is an offense to legally sell or supply tobacco or vape products to those born from 1 January 2007. It should not criminalise individual possession or usage.”
“This is the approach taken by New Zealand through its Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill. We should do the same.””
“The tobacco generational endgame (GEG) objectives can be realised by putting the onus and burden on retailers, companies and corporations to comply with prohibitions against the sale and supplying of tobacco products and vape to this group of people.”
“We have learnt from the bitter experience of Malaysia’s war on drug abuse that the legal assault is often on the individuals who fall victims to the disease of addiction. 60% of the over 69,000 prison inmates in Malaysia are minor drug offenders, who have been convicted for consumption, use and possession of various narcotics such as marijuana. Even without imprisonment, Clause 17 has the potential to create enormous harm by repeating the same mistakes made during our drug war,” Azrul emphasised.
“We must prevent the possibility of this legislation to disproportionately affect young people, persons of lower income, and vulnerable populations. A person addicted to nicotine, whether a smoker or vaper, has the right to be treated equally under the law, with compassion, and dignity.”
“By removing Clause 17, the concerns regarding enforcement under Part IX and its implications to individual smokers and vapers such as warrantless searches, seizure of property, access to private information can be properly focused on individual retailers, companies and corporations who sell, supply and manufacture tobacco products and vape.”
“Therefore, Clause 17 of the current iteration of the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 should be removed.”
“The best and arguably, only chance for the Bill to finally pass, after decades of dithering, will be through this PSSC and the coming parliamentary session,” Azrul emphasised.
“If it fails to be passed this time around, it might be another decade before we see the kind of leadership and vision demonstrated in this attempt. It might be years before vape is finally regulated, and for tobacco consumption to finally be reduced in Malaysia. By that time, thousands of people would have certainly lost their lives. Billions of ringgit in health expenditure would have been spent.”
“This is not the time to be timid and we must be bold for real change to happen.”
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