Lawmakers expected to vote on Anti-smoking Bill on Nov 30

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawmakers are expected to vote on the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2023 Bill soon as the Dewan Rakyat session is adjourned until Thursday (Nov 30), following a gruelling debate session on Wednesday (Nov 29).

Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Ramli Mohd Nor who stopped the debate session of the Bill said the sitting must reconvene on Thursday, following a previous motion made to end the Lower House daily session at 8pm.

"The minister will answer tomorrow (Nov 30). I will end the session today sharp at 8pm," he said on Wednesday after Dr Muhammad Taufiq Johari (PH-Sungai Petani) presented his debate on the bill.

The debate session started after the second reading of the Bill by Dr Zaliha Mustafa at the Dewan Rakyat.

More than 20 Members of Parliament debated with the majority of them training their guns at the minister for dropping the generational endgame (GEG) provision, claiming pressure from "outside lobbyists."

Hassan Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang) said the government should not give in to the big players from the tobacco industry by withdrawing the GEG element.

Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah (PN-Langkawi) when debating the bill asked why public health was not used as a reason to defend the GEG as part of the bill.

"In Malaysia, 27,000 people die every year from smoking. Before this, many people expressed support for GEG that is estimated to save two million lives. I want the minister to clarify this," he said.

Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary (PN-Pengkalan Chepa) said he was disappointed that the GEG provision was dropped due to views that the bill could be deemed as unconstitutional.

"If it was unconstitutional, then the government would never allow this. So, if you want it (GEG provisions), then change the government," quipped Ahmad.

Ahmad said the government sends RM6.2bil annually to treat smoking related diseases, compared to merely RM3bil collected from tobacco taxes.

"This means that the people have to fork out another RM3bil to treat smoking-related diseases," added Ahmad.

The Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on health chairman Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the GEG would return when the time was right.

He said Malaysia had lost its opportunity to become a pioneer in the fight against big tobacco with the removal of GEG.

"We will fight for GEG back in time when the time is appropriate," he said while adding that if the withdrawal of GEG was due to advice from the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) then it should be backed up with proper and thorough argument.

Previously, Dr Zaliha stressed the GEG was dropped from the amended version of the bill was following concerns from the AGC 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" and that it could be challenged in court.

In the amended version of the Bill, the ministry had decided to abandon the GEG element which sought to ban those born in 2007 and onwards from smoking or purchasing smoking products.

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