It is absolutely shocking that tobacco companies were permitted to advertise so blatantly at the recent F1 motor race at Sepang. The reason is simple - Malaysia was supposed to have banned tobacco product advertisements in F1 with effect from the end of last year.
This clearly demonstrates one important quality the government is proving to the world - Malaysia Boleh! There is also a gross lack of transparency as to who is so powerful as to be exempted from the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations of 2004 .
Millions of Malaysians and people from all over the world who watched the F1 live telecast saw tobacco brand names. What was even more surprising was the presence of tobacco billboards along the race track and the promotion of cigarettes at 'Red Zone' parties.
The Control of Tobacco Product Regulations of 2004 has already been ravaged by the postponement of the sale of kiddie packs and single sticks to 2010. Now apparently we have tobacco product advertisement exemption.
However, this is not the first time that the government has capitulated to the tobacco industry. It last year permitted a controversial exposition for the tobacco industry to be held in Kuala Lumpur. The purpose of that expo was to expand the tobacco market in Asia. Since nicotine is as addictive as cocaine or heroin, it can be compared to allowing drug barons and the Mafia to hold an exposition in Kuala Lumpur to explore ways to market drugs to people.
While we boast to the world that we have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and have 'comprehensive' legislation, we still allow such brazen violations to happen. It is time for us to discard the "I talk only" attitude and get moving. If there is no intention to comply, then let us not glorify what can be said but cannot be done.