Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s plan to establish a ‘generation endgame’ smoking ban, namely announcing legislative measures to forbid citizens born after 2005 from purchasing smoking products, has been met with bouts of criticism and uncertainty from the beginning.
Most recently, in a CodeBlue poll conducted since last Monday with 40 MPs from the Opposition and the government backbench in the 220-member Dewan Rakyat, only 12 legislators, or 30% of people polled, said they would vote for the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill.
Some MPs opposed the tobacco bill in its present form, citing issues with policing, illegal trade, the influence on Malaysia’s local vape industry, and individual liberties for the next generation, who would be unable to buy cigarettes or vapes even when they reached midlife.
Khairy then proposed deferring the tobacco ban to those born after 2007 instead, establishing a two-year postponement from his preliminary idea.
Following that, Muar MP Syed Saddiq took to Instagram yesterday (August 2) to speak up on his personal suggestions on how to improve this bill.
“I want to say that, especially as MPs, we need to walk the talk. Within the next 2 to 3 months, there are several improvements we can make to implement this new law. These are my ideas on how to support the bill, conditionally,” he said.
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With the weird choice of an instrumental tune of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ playing in the background, the young politician recommended the following:
1. Tobacco users should not be criminalised
“Focus on the source and the supplier. We shouldn’t, and ought not to punish those who struggle with addiction because it is not their choice,” said Syed Saddiq.
He also noted that in New Zealand, legislators focus on the supplier and the source and do not establish compound fines as they do not intend to drag their youth to the criminal court.
Netizens perceived this assertion as a means for the government to handle tricky situations involving tobacco users, with a dependence on the products, in a compassionate and gentle way.
2. Complete research based on science and data
The former youth and sports minister then mentioned that, in the UK, over 50,000 smokers have successfully transitioned from cigarettes, utilising vape products as alternatives.
“My suggestion on this is to present the data and science in parliament. Present it, and follow the science and data instead of rushing through the bill,” he said, explaining that his idea was to initiate harm reduction for smokers who may be able to find substitutes to harmful products based on legitimate research and scientific evidence.
3. Deregister outdated sections that are easy to exploit
“Lots of power is given to the DG (Director General), to deregister corporations and associations based on mere suspicions. No compensations are provided at all in the case where a misuse of power occurs. For example, search and seize operations, without a warrant.
“There is still time to pass this bill together, but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” stated Syed Saddiq, who netizens praised for his diligence and transparency throughout the short speech.
With a majority of them in agreement with the Muar MP’s suggestions, it seems more than likely that his ideas will indeed be taken into consideration by the Dewan Rakyat as they contemplate the passing of the bill.
Nevertheless, some locals have argued that perpetrators should eventually be punished, perhaps 5 years into the bill’s passing, mostly stating that at some point addiction is, in fact, a choice.
One user also stated that a lack of strict legal action against wrongdoers would lead to unlawful and uncontrollable circumstances. The same individual remarked that both cigarettes and vapes greatly endanger health, concluding their statement by opining that people are not obligated or necessitated to smoke cigarettes.
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