KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 — Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has defended the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 against naysayers who claim that the Bill would infringe on personal freedoms.
During the second reading of the Bill in Parliament today, Khairy said that Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution — which provides protection for life and personal freedoms — is not clearly defined and referred to the case of Letitia Bosman v Public Prosecutor.
The case saw the Federal Court take a wide approach to the definition of the word “life” and personal liberty, which includes important aspects of life.
It stated that “in like manner, in this jurisdiction, judicial case-law has similarly been expansively judicially interpreted such that it is no longer tenable to construe Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution literally.
“The meaning of ‘life’ and ‘personal liberty’ have been interpreted as encompassing the various essential aspects of life from ranging from the rudimentary needs of livelihood, education, shelter, locomotion to the more advanced aspects of ‘life’ and ‘personal liberty’ such as the right to a fair trial.
“The array of rights is not exhaustive and remains open to further judicial interpretation as novel situations arise,” Khairy said, quoting a passage from the judgment during a press conference in Parliament.
Khairy explained that the court’s approach in defining the meaning of the word “life” is seen as more likely to include matters relating to promoting survival or continuity of life.
“This is because the act of smoking itself is known to be public and scientifically proven to cause harm to one’s health as compared to its benefits, including harming the health of those around them with secondary smoke,” he said.
Khairy added that the implementation of the Bill is also in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) under Articles 6 and 24, of which Malaysia is a signatory.
He said that because of this, the government has a responsibility to ensure that all children receive the best health protection from any harmful products, which includes cigarettes, vapes and other smoking-related products.
“Article 6 of UNCRC states that State Parties recognise that every child has the inherent right to life; and; States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
“In this regard, it is important for the state to give protection to every child a right to life and to ensure that the survival and development of the child is guaranteed as much as possible,” he said.
Article 24 of UNCRC also states that States Parties recognise the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.
“Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all children receive the best health protection and protect them from any form of harmful products.
“The protection given to these GEGs will extend beyond their age as children to ensure complete protection against these harmful substances,” he said, using the abbreviation for ‘Generational End Game’.
Khairy tabled what has been widely dubbed as the anti-smoking Bill in Parliament on July 27.
The Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill 2022 proposes to ban smoking, buying or owning cigarettes and tobacco products for those born in 2007 onwards. The ban is slated to come into effect in 2025.