Gradual cigarette ban under GEG strategy best method to address smoking habit – Experts

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 (Bernama) — The gradual ban method proposed through the Generational End Game (GEG) strategy is seen as the best way to address the smoking habit, according to former Deputy Director-General of Health (Public Health) Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman.

He said this was because the smoking habit rate was still slowly declining, while the burden on treatment costs for smoking-related diseases borne by the government continues to increase.

“Insya Allah, if the smoking and vaping habits decline (following the implementation of the GEG strategy), the health burden caused by these bad habits will also decrease,” he told Bernama when contacted.

The Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, which provides for, among others, the prohibition of smoking, buying or possessing tobacco products or smoking devices by the GEG or individuals born in 2007 onwards, was tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on July 27.

Commenting on the effectiveness of the proposed law since tobacco products can still be sold to those born before 2007, Dr Lokman Hakim said it was not a problem because the country has the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations (PPKHT) 2004 and Food Act 1983 in place.

He said the rules still enforce the ban on smoking or possession of tobacco products for individuals aged 18 and below, as well as the sale of tobacco products to the group.

“Under the GEG strategy, this ban continues when they (individuals born in 2007 and above) turn 19, 20 and beyond. So, there is no reason why the implementation of this proposed law is not effective,” he said.

Meanwhile, Emergency and Trauma Physician at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (PPUM), Dr Mohd Afiq Md Noor, said the bill has a significant impact as the existing PPKHT 2004 does not cover new smoking devices such as vape.

Asked why vaping cannot be used as an alternative to tobacco products, he said that vaping had been proven to have adverse effects.

“There are many chemicals in them (cigarettes and vape) such as cyanogen. Taking cigarettes as an example, we can only find out there is lung cancer after 30 years (of smoking). It’s the same for vaping…not only does it has long-term (effect), we have seen short-term impact as well.

“We at the hospital receive cases of EVALI (Vaping Associated Lung Injury), which is a disease caused by vaping. For example, a young person with no other disease suddenly suffered from lung damage due to vaping history,” he said.

Although the bill received positive feedback from several parties, others urged the government to review some provisions as they could hurt the country’s economy.

However, according to Universiti Putra Malaysia School of Business and Economics deputy dean, Assoc Prof Norashidah Mohamed Nor, the tobacco industry’s contribution to Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is not that high.

On the other hand, she said, the cost of treating smoking-related diseases is higher, with a decrease in national productivity if most people develop the diseases in their early 40s.

“In the end, productivity will decrease. A lot of research has been done…productivity contributes to our country’s economy, not only in terms of revenue but various aspects as well,” she said.

Last Saturday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said a total of two million lives could be saved, and smoking-related diseases could be prevented in the period up till 2040 if the proposed Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Act 2022 comes into force.

On social media, while many people agree with the proposed law, some have raised their concerns about the enforcement aspect, which they said had loopholes that needed to be improved, especially regarding human rights.

However, according to lawyer Hazeeq Fadzli Hasrul Sani, there is still room for changes and improvements since the bill has not yet been finalised.

“As Malaysian citizens, we cannot deny that we have fundamental rights that are protected in Articles 5 to 13 of the (Federal) Constitution. Therefore, any enforcement of the bill (if approved) by the authorities must be in tandem and do not go against these fundamental rights.

“If any enforcement method goes beyond the limits or violates those fundamental rights, we have the right under the Constitution to take appropriate legal action against the enforcement agencies,” he said.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency

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