Thumbs up for the proposed smoking restrictions
PETALING JAYA: As expected, the smoking cessation proposal received broad support from health professionals.
However, as one pointed out, it is still in its infancy and issues such as enforcement will need to be given due consideration before any legislation is introduced.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President Dr. Koh Kar Chai said the move could significantly reduce the many health problems and co-morbidity problems caused by smoking in future generations.
Last week, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced that the government plans to table tobacco and tobacco control legislation during the next Dewan Rakyat session.
Currently, tobacco products are covered by the Food Act 1983.
The proposal follows a recent decision by the New Zealand government to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2008.
Under Kiwi law, anyone 14 and under today will never be able to legally purchase tobacco products during their lifetime.
Singapore is also considering a similar proposal.
Applauding the decision, Koh pointed out that there is overwhelming evidence to show that smoking is detrimental to health.
“It’s a step in the right direction. At MMA, we have been advocating for a smoke-free Malaysia and we have run many anti-smoking campaigns. It’s good to see progress now,” he said. the sun.
Koh said there should be support from both sides of the aisle when the bill is tabled for debate in Dewan Rakyat.
Tobacco use is a major health problem in Malaysia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the 2020 report of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Malaysians start smoking at an early age. One in five Malaysians is a smoker and 21.3% of smokers start smoking at the age of 15.
The cost of health care is also staggering. Malaysia is expected to spend RM7.4 billion to cover the cost of treating smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer and heart disease, by 2025, according to WHO estimates.
Koh stressed that point-of-sale enforcement must be strict to ensure cigarettes are not sold to minors.
He noted that anti-smuggling measures should also be in place to ensure that tobacco products and other similar addictive substances do not slip into Malaysia.
Besides criminalizing the sale of cigarettes to an entire generation, Koh said, education can also serve as a powerful way to discourage young people from taking up the habit.
“With greater awareness of smoking-caused diseases, the danger of second-hand smoke, and the high cost of treating smoking-related diseases, I think young people might be discouraged from lighting up,” he said. declared.
He also urged the government to continue raising taxes on cigarettes in a bid to price these items beyond the reach of the younger generation.
“The tax collected can then be used to cover the cost of public health care,” he added.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, director of the Galen Center for Health and Social Policy, said such a move would pay dividends not only for the future generation, but also for those approaching the age of maturity today.
Like Koh, he sees a challenge in enforcing such legislation.
“How do you know if a person is legally authorized to buy cigarettes without presenting their identity card? Maybe we can ask customers to show an individualized QR code to prove their legitimacy,” Azrul said. the sun.
He said there should also be easier access to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as patches and gum, which have been successful in helping smokers kick the habit.
“It is essential that the government provides adequate support to those who want to quit smoking using evidence-based approaches such as NRT. Electronic cigarettes do not have the same track record in treating nicotine addiction,” he added.