Postpone Malaysia's tobacco generation endgame implementation — Parliament committee

Postpone Malaysia's tobacco generation endgame implementation — Parliament committee
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The following is a statement from Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen, chairman of the Parliament Special Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation, reproduced in full.

The Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation after engagements with multiple stakeholders and getting inputs for experts in the fields, have come up with our recommendations on the Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill 2022 which the government intends to table for second reading next week in Parliament.

The committee in principle agrees with the principle of the Bill especially to uphold the health and well-being of our people and future generations as well as the need to expedite the regulation of tobacco products including vape, e-cigarettes and non-combustible tobacco products.

However, we acknowledge the different concerns raised by all stakeholders and see the importance of addressing certain implementation gaps, and to set a mandatory review and monitoring framework to ensure the Act achieves its intended target without causing any unintended consequences.

Thus in summary, our main recommendations are:

(1) To postpone the implementation to the Generation End Game (GEG) by three years to strengthen preparations for effective implementation including to prepare a proper inter-governmental enforcement framework. This means the GEG will affect individuals born after 2008.

(2) To insert in this Bill a clause to enable two "Mandatory Evaluation" for the Act. The Mandatory Assessment Report done in the [Parliamentary Special Select Committee] should then be brought to Parliament in the form of a motion for debate and be voted on.

The main considerations of the two mandatory evaluation is as follows:

[Three] years:

(i) Setting a period of three years as a period for assessing the preparedness of the government to fully implement the GEG and evaluating the effectiveness of the implementation of the Bill.

(ii) Assessing the need for separate regulations and separate Acts for non-combustible tobacco products, vape and combustible tobacco products based on emerging science and data.

The parameters for assessment shall be agreed upon with the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) and the Malaysian Parliament through the Special Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation.

Full implementation of GEG will only be done after the mandatory evaluation is debated in Parliament.

Evaluation period for 10 years:

(i) Assess and analyse the level of compliance and effectiveness of the Act in dealing with the issue of smoking and reducing the amount of smokers, on top of incorporating if needed new provisions based on new science and data.

(3) The committee emphasised that the government needs to intensify its efforts in combating the issue of illicit cigarettes so that the implementation of the GEG can be implemented effectively and achieves the intended objectives.

(4) The committee expressed its disagreement with the proposed criminal punishment for offences involving juveniles.

The committee strongly recommends that the punishment imposed on juveniles does not involve imprisonment and that the offence is not recorded in any existing system. Which means no criminalisation for our youth for possession.

Among the alternative penalties proposed are as follows:

(i) community service

(ii) mandatory counselling sessions

(iii) reasonable fine, tier system for first timers with clear guidelines.

(5) The committee recommends that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) be openly marketed over the counter and easily available.  

(6) Increase allocations and strengthening the mQuit Programme.

(7) At least 10% of the tax collected from the vape industry must be allocated to the mQuit programme.  

This are the few highlights among all the recommendations that is in the report.

On top of that we are also concern on the enforcement power issues in the Bill itself, especially involving juveniles and even children. The power to inspect, possibly body check and punish a child for possession must be heavily controlled to prevent abuse. That is why the guidelines for enforcement must be very clear and specific on this to ensure the vulnerable are not victimised by the law especially the poor.

Thus, we affirm our principle agreement with the Bill itself, and believe the recommendations are there to not only strengthen the Bill, but more importantly, to insert a monitoring framework to ensure transparent evaluation to address some of the concerns raised and ensure it achieves its intended target as well as to stay relevant and adapt to new data and science.

So we do hope the Minister and Ministry of Health will include our recommendations and answer our concerns to strengthen possible bi-partisan support for the Bill.

Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
Chairman of Parliament Special Select Committee On Health, Science And Innovation
MP for Bandar Kuching