Govt reminded of repercussions

PETALING JAYA: The timeline for the tabling of the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill in Parliament must be adhered to without further excuses now that the nicotine liquid and gel have been taken off the Poisons List, says the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC).

“The government needs to table the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill as per its original intent and content as quickly as possible.

“The Prime Minister has given his commitment that this will be done in the next Parliament meeting in May, and we implore that this timeline be adhered to without further excuses,” it said in a statement here yesterday.

Within the Bill, it added, were comprehensive measures for vaping and electronic cigarettes including key measures prohibiting its use by those under 18 years of age.

MCTC’s statement came in the wake of a meeting held between the Health Minister and various groups following weeks of criticisms against the removal of the nicotine liquid and gel from the Poisons List, which was signed off by Dr Zaliha Mustafa.

During the meeting, Dr Zaliha was reported as saying that the sign-off was done with a “heavy heart”.

The meeting was also attended by the Malaysian Pharmacists Society, National Cancer Society of Malaysia, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) as well as ministry officials.

The removal, which came before the tabling of the Bill, allows for excise duty for liquids with nicotine content at 40 sen per millilitre to be imposed from April 1.

For the long-term, the MCTC said the government through the Health Ministry and other agencies would need to announce a comprehensive strategy to contain and control nicotine addiction which will continue to rise exponentially now with this removal.

“Education campaigns need to be strengthened and significant resources devoted to this move.

“Equally important is the widening of cessation services and the provision of services to members of the public who are addicted to nicotine, irrespective of whether they are using conventional cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

“A roadmap and national level-control plan needs to be announced post-haste, with adequate funding and implementation mechanisms to ensure that it is carried out,” said MCTC.

Describing the removal as the damage is done, it said the impact of this on the health of all Malaysians would continue to grow every day.

“The MCTC is deeply concerned with the dangerous precedent that this has set where the health of Malaysians, especially since children and young people have been put at risk merely for the idea of raising revenue.

On Friday, MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai said it found the ministry’s explanation on the matter to be unacceptable.

“The government could have waited just one or two more months for the Bill to be tabled and passed first before proceeding with the exemption of nicotine from the Poisons Act.

“Health concerns must come first above all,” he said.

Describing that there was no use crying over spilt milk now, he said: “The horse has bolted, but the government must be accountable for this decision and show that it is committed to the Generational End Game (GEG) which seeks to prohibit the sale and use of any form of smoking material, including electronic cigarettes or vape products, to individuals born on Jan 1, 2007, onwards.”

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