KUALA LUMPUR – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said today that the new YB Minister of Health is taking the right step to make a re-assessment on the tobacco bill.
Recently Dr Zaliha Mustafa said that the proposed Tobacco and Smoking Products Control Bill 2022 will be reviewed and re-evaluated before a decision is being made. Dr Zaliha also mentioned that any policy to be implemented must be done gradually or step by step and not drastically.
Tarmizi Anuwar, representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Centre, agrees with the step taken by the new Minister of Health. Some of the proposed measures including the Generational End Game (GEG) policy is too extreme and creates a lot of complexity.
He also points out that the assessment must take into account the need to differentiate tobacco products from vape given its potential as a less harmful product to help reduce the number of cigarette smokers in the country.
“The Minister of Health is taking the right step to reassess the tobacco bill. Her suggestion about taking incremental approach is good and should be used as the main formula in the effort to reduce smokers in this country,” said Tarmizi.
“They should also recognize tobacco harm reduction as one of the methods to reduce the number of smokers in Malaysia. A drastic ban is not a suitable solution because it will cause other problems to arise, such as the increase of the illicit market, which will be bad for consumers because these products do not follow the specifications required by the ministry”.
In addition, Tarmizi suggests that the government must replicate the implementation of policies in countries such as the United Kingdom that have succeeded in significantly reducing smoking rates through the recognition of harm reduction as the main strategy.
Based on data released by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics recently, the number of smokers aged 18 and over has decreased from 14.0 percent in 2020 to 13.3 percent in 2021. In fact, this is the most effective decrease since it was first recorded in 2011 by 20.2 percent.
According to James Tucker, Health Analysis at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the reduction in the number of smokers is due to more people switching to electronic cigarettes.
In 2015, Public Health England released a report that vape products is 95 percent less harmful when compared to conventional cigarettes sold.
“The strategy of encouraging smokers to switch to products that are less harmful has been proven in other countries to bring down cigarette smoking rates,” said Tarmizi.