PUTRAJAYA: More than two million lives will be saved within the next two decades if the “Generational End Game” (GEG) law to curb smoking is implemented, says Khairy Jamaluddin.
The Health Minister said the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill was introduced so that Malaysia could address cases of premature deaths caused by smoking, adding that it was also aimed at reducing smoking-related ailments.
“We have already spent more than RM6bil since 2020 to treat three major smoking-related ailments such as lung cancer, heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“The tax collected from cigarettes is only RM3bil,” he said.
Khairy compared this to the cost of treating smoking-related ailments, which is estimated to go up to RM8.8bil by 2030.
He added that there were not many other laws that could save these many lives, so this signalled GEG’s importance.
“Let us pass this Bill together,” he said, in calling for MPs to support the Bill, which is scheduled to be debated tomorrow.
Under the Bill, those born in and after 2007 will be prohibited from smoking, buying or possessing any type of smoking products, including electronic cigarettes or vape devices, even after reaching the age of 18.
Shopkeepers and cigarette vendors are also not allowed to sell such products to this group of people.
The proposed law is expected to come into force in 2025.
Khairy said GEG offenders would not have a criminal record nor penalised with a jail term, but compounds would be issued to them.
“Those found selling the products to the underaged, however, will face stern action which can include a jail sentence,” he said.
He added that the proposed maximum RM5,000 fine was mainly a deterrent.
“From 2019, 10,421 compounds were issued to underage individuals purchasing cigarettes, with only 145 going to court.
“The average fine issued by the court was only RM200.
“At the same time, the highest fine issued by the court towards underage individuals purchasing cigarettes (under existing laws) was only RM300,” he said.
As for illicit cigarettes, he said his ministry and other authorities would work towards stemming out the problem.
He noted that some studies from tobacco companies stated that illicit cigarettes made up about 60% of the market while studies from economic experts estimated that it was about 48%.
Khairy said he would be spearheading efforts to flush out the black market for cigarettes while concurrently reducing the overall demand for smoking.
“Just because there is an illicit market, it doesn’t mean we should not do the right thing.
We can do the ‘Generational End Game’ while also fighting the illicit market,” he said.
He added that online sales of cigarettes or vapes would no longer be allowed once the Bill was passed.
“Under this law, we can take action through the Communications and Multimedia Commission, among others, as online sales of the product would be an offence,” he said.
He said the ministry would also hold engagements with sundry shops and vape industry players on the best mechanism to ensure the GEG is carried out effectively.
“There are several considerations such as using a QR code, checking identification cards, and also an app to purchase tobacco products,” he said, adding that he intended for it to be a seamless process for both sellers and eligible consumers.
The Health Ministry had initially proposed the GEG ban to cover those born on Jan 1, 2005 and later, but recently revised it to those born on Jan 1, 2007 and later.