Health Ministry drafting law to raise legal smoking age to 21

A study by the National Poison Centre and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance showed that some Malaysian children have tried smoking before the age of 13. — Reuters pic
A study by the National Poison Centre and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance showed that some Malaysian children have tried smoking before the age of 13. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 — The Health Ministry is drafting a new tobacco bill to raise the legal smoking age to 21 from 18 and to ban smoking in vehicles with children inside.

Local daily the New Straits Times (NST) reported today that the new bill also includes a ban on displaying tobacco products.

"The ministry has, in fact, been lobbying for a tobacco Act since 2005, when Malaysia became a party to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention for Tobacco Control on December 15, 2005.

"A draft of the tobacco act has actually been prepared since 2009. Unfortunately, it was not tabled in Parliament due to some circumstances," an unnamed official from the ministry told the English language daily.

She added that the ministry renewed its efforts to table the bill last year.

She also said a study by the National Poison Centre and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance showed that some Malaysian children have tried smoking before the age of 13.

Increasing the age for tobacco sales to 21 will reduce tobacco use among teens and youths, she claimed, without citing any report to support the theory.

The NST article cited the Global School-Based Student Health Survey 2012 in Malaysia which showed that 71 per cent of teenagers who smoke had tried a cigarette before the age of 14.

Although Kuwait, Honduras and Sri Lanka also set the legal age at 21, it is unclear if the move had reduced the number of teenage smokers.

The official from the Health Ministry also said awareness campaigns should be conducted as early as preschool and that parents should warn their children on the severe consequences of nicotine addiction.

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