Call for anti-smoking Bill gets louder

All for the Bill: (From left) Muhammad Sha’ani, NV Subbarow and Wan Ahmad Fayshal.

The call to expedite the anti-smoking Bill has grown in light of the rising trend of teenagers vaping.

Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control Council secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said vape devices are too convenient to be used by the public and called for them to be urgently addressed by passing the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023.

“Using a vape device is very convenient to ingest any inhalant. As currently there is no legal framework to address this dangerous device, it is urgent for these devices to be banned as recommended by the ministry under the anti-smoking law,” he said when contacted.

On Nov 20, The Star reported that six students in a secondary school in Selangor were recently found vomiting by a teacher after inhaling a vape with “unusual flavouring” shared among themselves.

It was also reported that there has been a rising number of students caught using vape or ecigarettes.

The Bill includes provisions for what is widely known as the Generational Endgame (GEG).

Under the GEG, individuals born on Jan 1, 2007 and after are barred from smoking or purchasing cigarettes or other tobacco products, including vapes.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer NV Subbarow said the anti-smoking law needs to be enacted the soonest to protect the future generations from the harm of cigarettes and vaping.

“We need anti-smoking laws to protect the children. At the same time, there are also non-smokers who want clean air. They want to protect themselves and family members, including children. The Act may reduce the number of smokers or ecigarettes users,” he said when contacted.

Malaysia Society for Harm Reduction president Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh concurred, saying the law will put an end to tobacco addiction among the future generation.

“We need this law quickly so that we can put an end to tobacco addiction that leads to many harmful consequences,” she said.

While banning cigarettes for those who are born after 2007 is lauded, Prof Sharifa said it will not produce positive changes instantly. She added that the implementation of the Act without comprehensive regulations will also potentially drive more people turning to the black markets, especially the youngsters.

“Abruptly banning smoking products, which include vaping, will not be practical. There should be an alternative. If not, they will turn to the black markets.

“With that being said, vape products too need to be urgently regulated. Eventually, in the future, we can then look into totally banning vape,” she said, who is also a public health expert.

On curbing the black market, she said the authorities need to heighten its enforcement to avoid people turning to the illicit trade.

Prof Sharifa said contraband cigarettes purchased from the black market are more harmful as the products do not follow the stipulated regulations.

She added by regulating vape products as alternatives, the government will be able to properly control the ingredients in the vape juices.

“Some vape juices in the market contain unregulated ingredients that could potentially cause ecigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (Evali).

“By regulating vapes, we can control what should not be in the products. Just like in the United Kingdom where vape is highly regulated,” she added.

In the Dewan Rakyat, Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh said that vape and ecigarettes must be regulated immediately through future regulations.

Yeoh said the ministry had gazetted complexes under its purview to be smoke-free, referring to cigarette smoking and vaping restrictions.

“This is in consideration of other existing tobacco control legislations, stating that smoking is restricted in stadiums and sport areas,” she said during her ministry’s winding up speech at the committee level yesterday.

At a press conference later, Machang MP Wan Ahmad Fayshal mooted for the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 to be passed.

He said the issue of vaping “became more problematic” when nicotine was exempted from the poisons list earlier this year.

“The Health Minister said the second reading of the Bill will be tabled before the end of this sitting. We hope it will really be tabled,” he said.

Source: The Star (22 November 2023)