A public health pressure group has urged the government to follow through on the landmark anti-smoking bill championed by former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, as one of a series of "urgent" steps to be taken amid what it describes as a crisis in Malaysian healthcare.
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 had been discussed by a bipartisan parliamentary special select committee which had worked hard to accommodate the views of all parties.
It also warned of the consequences of not regulating vaping and vape-related products, especially for the youth.
"The age of those who vape is getting alarming younger (school children are now vaping), nicotine concentration in Malaysia is exceptionally high (5%) and not available in most countries which regulate vape, the cost of vaping is lower than cigarettes making it an attractive habit to take up, and nicotine addiction is slowly increasing rather than decreasing.
"Table the Tobacco Control Bill for voting and passage," it said.
"Vaping and vape products, which are covered under this proposed legislation, need to be regulated immediately."
The Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 seeks to prohibit those born on or after Jan 1, 2007 from purchasing or possessing cigarettes or vape products.
It aims to prevent the younger generation from picking up the smoking habit, and to reduce deaths caused by smoking-related diseases.
Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib also called on the government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to address what he described as "the massive haemorrhage of talent" in the health sector due to factors such as a lack of transparency on contract and permanent positions, bullying and sexual harassment, exploitation, burnout and poor work conditions.
He likewise called for a solution to the issue of congestion at hospital emergency departments, and concerns on the safety of public healthcare facilities.
"Malaysia's healthcare system needs immediate attention to improving existing infrastructure, retaining manpower, increasing coverage and quality of service delivery, and addressing the multiple crises that it is currently experiencing," he said.
"Whether the government recognises it or not, the Malaysian healthcare system and the health of people in this country are currently in crisis
"Rising numbers and complexities of people living with non-communicable diseases, abnormally long waiting times at hospitals, persistent workforce shortages and exodus, patients struggling to access the care they need, and burnt-out healthcare workers, are all symptomatic of a service that is struggling and is on the brink of breaking.
"This is not an exaggeration but an everyday reality faced by many health workers and patients."