PETALING JAYA: Despite a commendable performance as Health Minister, there is one thing that still lingers at the back of Khairy Jamaluddin’s mind – being unable to see the fruition of the tobacco “Generational Endgame” (GEG) Bill.
Speaking at a forum yesterday, Khairy said there was just not enough time to see the Bill cross the finish line.
“We were almost there. Myself, former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on Health, Science and Innovation chairman Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen and current Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni worked very hard for this.
“There were some amendments and valid concerns, but we just ran out of time,” he said.
Khairy, who was Health Minister from 2021 until this year, said he had planned to table the Bill after Budget 2023, but knew by then that there was not enough political time left.
“I really hope that those who are still MPs can continue to push this,” he said.
The GEG plan under the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill is aimed at banning the use, sale and possession of tobacco and vape products for those born after Jan 1, 2007.
They will also not be allowed to buy or use any form of smoking- related products, including electronic cigarettes or vape, with the aim of banning future generations from smoking and vaping.
The Bill was hotly debated by MPs in July before being referred to the PSSC for further consideration, and was set to be retabled in Parliament in October.
However, Parliament was dissolved on Oct 10 to pave the way for the 15th General Election, which also saw Khairy losing to Pakatan Harapan’s Ramanan Ramakrishnan for the Sungai Buloh parliamentary seat.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Khairy said steely political will is a necessity when it comes to reforms in the health sector.
“Preparations to ‘reform’ the health sector have been done since long ago and strong political will is needed to implement them.
“Don’t be afraid of making decisions regardless of how difficult they can be,” he said, adding that the current Health Ministry leadership had the support of its former ministers.
Dr Dzulkefly, who also joined the forum, said it was important for the nation to move forward with health reforms.
“It is necessary, especially given the current political landscape which sees a coalition government made up of various political blocs.
“There is no other choice but to move forward with implementing health reforms and we should begin working towards it,” he said, adding that over 14 studies on the matter had been carried out since 1985.
Dr Dzulkefly, who was Health Minister during the Pakatan administration from 2018 to 2020, said the people would benefit greatly from potential healthcare reforms.
“The time is now, and we fully support Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa and her deputy Lukanisman,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lukanisman said he would take heed of the aspects mentioned by the previous health ministers during the forum.
“The Health Minister and I are working towards making the aspects worked on by previous health ministers a reality,” he said, adding that he was open to feedback from previous health ministers.Another speaker at the forum was Tan Sri Dr S. Subramaniam, who was Health Minister from 2013 to 2018.