GEORGE TOWN, Oct 7 — Penang state exco Dr Afif Bahardin said the government should focus on making automated external defibrillators (AED) in public spaces compulsory instead of debating the legalisation of cannabis.

“We need this law to be implemented in Parliament. This is important because it can save lives. It is more important than the talk about legalising cannabis,” the state health, agriculture and agro-based industries committee chairman said.

He said there is no law in the country to govern the placement of AED now.

“I would like to appeal to the Health Ministry and the Cabinet to look into this. We need more AED to be placed in public places similar to the requirement for fire extinguishers,” he said.

He said Singapore required that AED be installed at all public housing.

Dr Afif was speaking during a press conference at a Penang Heart Safe programme with the police at the Penang police headquarters here.

He said there are now 62 AED installed in community spaces in the state while many other private companies such as factories have AED within their premises.

“When we have AED, we also need to train the public on how to use them so we have been providing first aid training programmes over the past four years,” he said.

He added that more than 200,000 people have been trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of AED under the state’s Penang Heart Safe programme.

Currently, he said the installation of AED by the Penang state government was supported by the private sector and contributions by non-governmental organisations (NGO).

He said while the government is actively creating awareness on the prevention of heart diseases, the percentage of deaths due to heart diseases is still high and showed a worrying increase of about 54 per cent in a 10-year period.

“This is why we still need AED and CPR training so that lives can be saved,” he said.

He cited the example of five secondary school students who saved a man using CPR last year.

“This proves that the state’s programme is successful in ensuring that the public, from students to adults, are fully trained in CPR and the use of AED,” he said.

Earlier, in his speech, he also spoke on the state’s initiative to make the tourist belt, Batu Ferringhi, a smoke-free zone.

He said it was the state government’s plan to expand smoke-free zones throughout the state for the sake of public health.

“We are doing this to protect the public from second-hand smoke. We are not stopping smokers from smoking but they can only do it within designated zones so that they do not affect others,” he said.

He said Batu Ferringhi is just a start and the state will soon implement smoke-free zones in Seberang Jaya, Bertam, Nibong Tebal, Bayan Baru and Bayan Lepas.