KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — The long-awaited Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 was passed during its third reading in the Dewan Rakyat.
The Bill sailed through a majority voice vote called by Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul, riding over criticisms from both backbenchers and Opposition MPs during the debate session yesterday with the bulk of the discontent focused on the omission of the Generational End Game (GEG) policy initiated by the previous government.
The passage of the Bill means that Malaysia now has a standalone law to close the loopholes in existing legislation to regulate the use of smoking products.
In her winding-up speech, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the removal of the GEG provision was collectively decided by the government.
Referring to the views of the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), Dr Zaliha reiterated that there is an issue with inequality and discrimination with the GEG policy as it would treat those before January 1, 2007 differently than those born after that date.
“Therefore, the concept of GEG that was desired to be implemented will result in different treatment of two birth groups in different years, it doesn’t matter what year it was set (for).
“Hence, the AG had a view that the provision could be challenged in court for being contradictory with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution. Even though it’s true that parliamentarians enact laws and determine policies, however, the opinion and advice of the AG should be taken into account in the enactment of any law so as not to conflict with any existing laws, especially the Federal Constitution.
“Taking this view into account, the Health Ministry has made follow-up action to continue the tabling of this Bill,” Dr Zaliha told Parliament.
She said there was an urgent need to close the loopholes in existing laws to ensure that there is comprehensive regulations for all smoking products including electronic cigarettes or vaping.
“Stricter enforcement will ensure effectiveness as this Bill reduces the prevalence of smoking as it has been reported in several countries such as Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.
“Although the provision of GEG is not included in this bill, it does not mean that the Health Ministry is taking lightly the smoking problem in our country and will instead continue intensify smoking prevention advocacy activities,” she said.
Responding to Kuala Nerus MP Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali who said the changes to the Bill have neutered it, Dr Zaliha said the Bill would create a new law that would allow for more comprehensive control.
“Under this Bill, there are additional provisions such as registration requirements for all smoking products, ban on the sale and advertising of artificial smoking products and provision of acute or critical situations that are not in the existing regulations.
“The existing Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 under the Food Act 1983 is not sufficient to control new smoking products (electronic-cigarettes and vape),” she said.
The Bill was tabled yesterday morning for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat and omitted the GEG policy that aimed to prohibit the sale and use of any form of smoking material including electronic cigarettes or vaping to individuals born on January 1, 2007.
Dr Zaliha previously withdrew the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 which was first tabled in June, to make way for the revised version tabled yesterday.
Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has criticised the federal government for omitting the GEG clause, and alleged that his brainchild was dropped because of strong lobby from tobacco companies in Malaysia, rather than legal arguments about the unconstitutionality in its implementation.