Editor’s Note: Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has today tabled the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill for first reading in Parliament today.
RECENTLY, a polemic arose when Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wanted to table a Bill to ban tobacco and vaping for future generation of Malaysians in Parliament, which is in session until Aug 4.
Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) firmly disagrees with the proposed ban for many reasons. Primarily, we believe that such a ban will infringe on the rights of Malaysians to choose and make decisions regarding their own lifestyle.
The Government and Members of Parliament (MPs) should examine this matter holistically, especially matters involving consumer preferences.
All of us, smokers or non-smokers alike, have a fundamental interest in defending our personal and civic freedom so that we can live our lives as we think best rather than as what the Government tells or wants us to do.
In a free society, adults must be allowed to make choices concerning their lifestyle without excessive intervention.
Freedom to seek alternatives
CCC does not condone smoking. We understand the health risks and the impact of second hand smoke.
Long-term tobacco consumption or smoking can cause health disorders to the nervous system, lungs and heart, digestive system and even the human reproductive system.
Almost 99% of tobacco-related deaths are caused by smoking rather than from the use of nicotine in other forms. The Yorkshire Cancer Research says nicotine is not the cause of smoking-related deaths. In fact, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease are not caused by nicotine.
As a consequence, the idea of nicotine replacement or tobacco harm reduction has proven to help reduce the above risks. Stopping tobacco use with harm reduction products and technologies such as vape can also reduce the risk of getting or dying from cancer.
This is agreed by international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) Euro Office which states that the complete replacement of burning tobacco with electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems is capable of reducing the exposure of consumers to a wide toxic range.
In addition, Public Health England also stated that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.
In the Illegal Cigarette Survey (ICS) released by Nielsen in 2021, Malaysia ranked highest in the world for the existence of illegal cigarette syndicates and smuggling.
Meanwhile, according to a study by the Datametrics Research and Information Research Centre (DARE) entitled Clearing the Smoke: Reducing Tobacco Harm, the incidence of illicit tobacco trade is expected to surge by 61.7% from 58.4% in March 2022 if the Government pursues a “Generational End Game (GEG)” policy.
It is more worrying when this illegal trade is more harmful to consumers because the products sold in the market do not meet the local health regulations. In fact, some of them are also mixed with ingredients that are not suitable for human consumption.
Every user has the right to receive accurate information in making a decision to ensure what is best for him, including information on the importance of switching to vaping or alternatives to smoking.
Consumer rights in tobacco harm reduction
Banning tobacco and vaping will restrict the freedom of individuals to obtain alternatives, increase illegal trade as well as spark the re-use of cigarettes. Smoking addiction is a complex issue that needs to be addressed with more effective and creative public policies or strategies.
The Government should see the method of reducing the harmful effects of tobacco as one of the important approaches in reducing the number of smokers in Malaysia. This is especially when we see the trend of switching to vaping as a less harmful product has received a positive response among smokers in Malaysia.
Recognising the rights of consumers towards reducing the harms of tobacco will be able to both educate and provide Malaysian consumers with accurate information. Indirectly, it can provide consumers with knowledge about health risk reduction. – July 27, 2022
Tarmizi Anuwar is the Malaysia Country Associate at the Consumer Choice Centre.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.