KUALA: The generational end-game (GEG) has not been entirely forgotten, says Dr Zaliha Mustafa.
She cited the Attorney-General’s Chamber’s concerns on the constitutionality of the GEG element which sought to ban those born in 2007 and onwards from smoking or purchasing smoking products as the reason for the removal of the provision from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2023 Bill.
The AGC had expressed concerns that the GEG contradicted Article 8 of the Federal Constitution as "it creates unequal legal treatment between a person born before Jan 1, 2007 and a person born on and after Jan 1, 2007".
"We sought a lot of views. The AG has given the views that the matter relates to Article 8 and it can be challenged (in court)," she told reporters at the briefing in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 28).
To address the loopholes from the delisting of nicotine gel from the Poison’s Act 1954 and the regulation of vape, she said the ministry had to address issues which were deemed as a priority.
On that note, although the GEG element was removed from the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2023 Bill, the bill included the provision to regulate products such as vape and protect those who were underage.
She said the ministry would also monitor the situation after the bill comes into effect.
"If we feel that there is a need to relook at the possibility of GEG, maybe then we will bring it back. But I am not giving any timelines," she said.
"We have not forgotten entirely. We are pushing it aside and focusing on the priorities," she added.
On why the provision was included in the previous versions of the bill despite the AGC saying that it was consistent with its views from 2022, she said that the question had to be directed to her predecessor Khairy Jamaluddin.
"That one you have to ask KJ (Khairy). I was made to understand that the AGC has been consistent with (the views) that Article 8 can be challenged. KJ chose to persist," she said.
"We are a new government and we choose to seek the views of federal agencies especially the AGC. That is why we arrived at the decision to table the bill without GEG," she said.
On Khairy’s reaction to the bill, Dr Zaliha said that was his personal view.
Earlier on Tuesday (Nov 28), Khairy, who is the chief architect of the bill, said the strong lobby by tobacco industry players was the reason the generational end-game (GEG) element in the anti-smoking Bill was dropped.
While this was a win for the Big Tobacco and vape industry for the moment, the former health minister said the fight to protect Malaysians’ health was far from over.
"That has led to a loophole in the control of nicotine gel, especially vape. We didnt want this to prolong," she said.
The revised Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2023 Bill was tabled for the first reading on Nov 28. It is slated for second reading on Nov 29.