GEG law set to target point of sale


PETALING JAYA: Punitive measures have not been proven to cure smokers of their addiction and this is why the proposed Generational End Game (GEG) law is geared towards penalising sellers to cut access to the youngsters, say health experts.

With the objective to create a new generation of non-smokers, these experts from the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) and Ikram Health Malaysia said they have proposed that smokers not be penalised for their addiction.

They underlined their point ahead of the second reading of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill (better known as the GEG Bill), scheduled to take place in Parliament tomorrow following a revision of the proposed law.

Under the Bill, individuals born on Jan 1, 2007, and after are barred from smoking or purchasing cigarettes or other tobacco products including vapes.

On Saturday, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the revision includes several amendments as the government shifts towards a “soft landing” approach through educational enforcement.

The amendments cover 13 of the Bill’s 58 sections, including those involving controversial fines against underage offenders.

Dr Zaliha said educational enforcement includes sending minors for counselling and to smoking cessation clinics instead of punitive action.

NSCM managing director Dr M. Murallitharan said the control measures should be holistic and not merely aim at punishing users.

“We are learning in terms of behavioural science on how to tackle addiction issues.

“Taking a criminalistic approach to manage what is a substance addiction has not yielded significant success in the past not only in our country but in many others.

“Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean that there should be no measures but rather, the action has to be holistic and should not merely aim at punishing users.”

The relevant measures include limiting or prohibiting promotions and advertising – a move that has proven to work – and allowing access only to those eligible to buy, he added.

Dr Murallitharan explained that there are four aspects to the issue – sale, purchase, possession and usage – and that under the previous Parliamentary Special Select Committee on GEG, punitive measures were removed for possession.

“In the current revision, we have also recommended the removal of such measures for usage to ensure that individuals – those in the GEG cohort – are not criminalised for possessing or using the product.

“Controls will be at the buying and selling ends to ensure that traders are not selling to minors or those within the GEG cohort and also that these individuals are not buying,” he said.

The National Kenaf and Tobacco Board had already introduced licensing so that only legal sellers could sell, he noted.

Dr Murallitharan added that the prohibition of control measures will continue to be in place for smoke-free places to protect all non-smokers.

Ikram Health Malaysia president Dr Mohd Afiq Mohd Nor, whose NGO is active in running cessation clinics for smokers who are minors, said the public should understand that the GEG targets to control nicotine addiction at its very source – the point of sale.

Noting that the biggest issue with smoking and vaping is addiction, he said nicotine use disorder should be treated rather than punished.

However, everyone should understand that a major part of the GEG policy is to prohibit sales to those born from 2007, thus reducing the prevalence of young smokers and vapers from the start, he said.

Dr Mohd Afiq said that while nicotine addicts are not punished under GEG, there are punitive elements for individuals or businesses that sell tobacco products to those born from 2007.

“We (the stakeholders pushing for GEG) are extremely committed to resolving this smoking and vaping issue, especially among minors.

“We should focus more on how to limit sales to the GEG cohort and prevent this group from purchasing smoking products.

“If sellers do not comply, the compound or punishment should be increased and multiplied,” he added.

The GEG was mooted by the previous administration, with the Health Ministry stating that those suffering from lung injury associated with e-cigarette or vaping product use had on average cost the government RM150,000 per patient over 12 days of treatment.

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