The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) today urged MPs and Cabinet members to support the government's plan to eliminate smoking and the possession of tobacco products for those born after 2005, saying the law will contribute to a healthy society and reduce the financial burden on the healthcare system.
CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said the government had misjudged in imposing a 10% excise duty on electronic and non-electronic cigarette products last year without considering the economic cost of treating chronic smoking-related diseases.
"The taxes earned from all tobacco products are minuscule compared to the estimated current expenditure of RM3 billion for treating chronic smoking-related diseases," he said, adding that this amount is expected to increase to RM8 billion by 2030.
He also panned the claim by the tobacco industry that vaping is harmless, saying studies have shown that the aerosol contains heavy metals and other toxic chemicals.
"Vaping has been found to be more addictive, making it harder to quit," he said.
"Malaysia desperately needs a comprehensive tobacco control law to replace the current Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 that, oddly, is placed under the Food Act 1983.
"In fact, if there had been no intense lobbying by the tobacco industry, the regulations would have been replaced by a standalone Tobacco Control Act in 2007."
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on July 8 that the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill would be brought to the Cabinet meeting this week for approval before being tabled in Parliament.
He said the proposed implementation of the generational endgame provision in the bill was to protect Malaysia's younger generation from picking up the smoking habit and getting addicted to tobacco products, as well as to reduce the number of smokers in Malaysia to less than 5% by 2040.
He added that the prevalence of smokers in Malaysia was high at 40.5% among men and 20% among women.
Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, for one, has voiced reservations about the bill, saying on July 13 that it might affect businesses as well as individual liberty in addition to driving up illicit trade.
"This issue should be debated in full and deliberated based on documented data and science," he was quoted as telling health news website CodeBlue.