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MP SPEAKS | Is it right for MPs to support a bill without deliberation?

MP SPEAKS | Last Wednesday (July 27), the Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill was tabled in Parliament for the first reading. This was the first time the MPs read the bill. Since then, there have been many discussions on the merits and demerits of the bill.

The most discussed tobacco control measure in the bill is what is touted as the “Generation End Game” (GEG), which seeks to ban an entire generation from all tobacco products.

Meanwhile, the day before this bill was tabled in Parliament, the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill was tabled in New Zealand’s parliament, which included New Zealand’s version of GEG. (Theirs is called Smokefree Generation.) The table attached shows the difference between the Malaysia and New Zealand versions of GEG.

With illicit cigarette prevalence at 6-7 percent according to New Zealand Custom (or 11.5 percent according to the tobacco industry), New Zealand aims to start a generational ban on smoked tobacco products (not including vaping) for those born on/after Jan 1, 2009.

On the other hand, Malaysia’s illicit cigarette prevalence is at 28 percent according to the Health Ministry (or 57.3 percent according to the tobacco industry).

With an enforcement capability that is four times weaker, is the aim to start the generational ban on all tobacco products (including vaping) two years earlier than New Zealand - for those born on or after Jan 1, 2007 - achievable? Should we include vaping in the generational ban?

New Zealand’s version of GEG prohibits the selling, supplying, and delivering of tobacco products to people born on or after Jan 1, 2009, whereas Malaysia’s GEG includes the prohibition of people born on or after Jan 1, 2007, from smoking and possessing tobacco products.

Which type of prohibition is more effective? Or is prohibition the right way to go?

In addition, the Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill is a new bill, which also includes other tobacco control measures such as vape industry regulation, plain packaging, prohibition of display and etc.

What is the impact on society when this law comes into force? The public should note that there is no regulatory impact assessment report available to the MPs to consider.

In term of enforcement, the Malaysia Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill give wide-ranging powers to enforcement officers, whereas New Zealand’s enforcement officers only have the power to enter premises that are not residential or a dwelling place for investigation and other enforcement actions will need a warrant.

Why do enforcement officers in Malaysia need so much power that the New Zealand officers don’t? Do these clauses infringe upon personal privacy and human rights?

I do not have definite answers to most of the questions above and would like to listen to more views (other than from the Health Ministry) from different parts of society. I believe most MPs wish to do that too, and they may have more questions about the bill that require answers.

New Zealand MPs were given four months to consider amendments to existing law, but Malaysia MPs are expected to decide in less than a week on an entirely new bill. Is it right for Malaysian MPs to support a bill without much deliberation in the name of good intentions?

I hope that the Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill will be sent to the following Parliamentary Select Committees: i. Health, Science and Innovation, ii. Women, Children and Social Development, and iii. Fundamental Liberty and Constitutional Rights, for further deliberation with different stakeholders, and that the Health Ministry will do a comprehensive regulatory impact assessment on the bill.

The reports from these committees and the ministry can then be tabled to MPs to consider the bill more comprehensively.

Let us make a good law together to achieve the good intention of reducing smoking prevalence in Malaysia.

YEO BEE YIN is Bakri MP.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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