FORMER health minister Khairy Jamaluddin (KJ) is upset that his brainchild Generation End Game (GEG) bill didn’t make the cut. “Congratulations” to Big Tobacco and the vape industry, he lamented sarcastically, describing the entire episode as a sad day as if evil had triumphed over good because he was unable to stamp his legacy.
I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.
KJ might believe that if his bill passed, it would have ensured an entire generation became free of lung cancer but I know from the fact that illegal cigarettes can be easily obtained anywhere in the country – and that his bill would not have made any difference at all even if it had passed.
If KJ was really interested in public health, he would have done more to flush out the easily available black market cigarettes in the country before proposing an impossible to implement law that would make smoking illegal to Malaysians born after 2007.
How in the world is anyone supposed to know who is born after 2007 and who is born before anyway?
Impossible to nab law-breakers
And whose job is it going to be to check who is born before 2007 and who is born after? The cops? The city council? If yes, what do they think about the job? Do they think that they will be able to do it?
Making laws is easy. But having a law that cannot be implemented is not a good idea. If you have one too many laws that cannot be implemented, people will start losing respect for the law.
I actually think that it might even be counter-productive to have a law that prevents those who are young to smoke while permitting those who are older to smoke. Wouldn’t that just entice those who are younger to smoke just so that they can appear older?
And the GEG law – if implemented – would have made it illegal for anyone born after 2007 to smoke for perpetuity.
This means that even if a person who is born after 2007 is 80 years old, it would still be illegal for them to smoke although it is perfectly legal for their friend who is 81 years of age to smoke.
Imagine if you are a cop who has to fine an 80-years-old while their 81-years-old friends keep on smoking. What an awkward situation would that be!
Did KJ even study why people smoke in the first place? If people smoke because they are stressed – and you take away their cigarettes and vape – will their stress go away?
If not, what are they going to do if they are stressed when they are no longer allowed to smoke? What if they start to drink or overeat or do something even more dangerous to compensate instead? Did KJ even consider that possibility?
Building legacy sake
If the precedent for the GEG is set, when will it end? If the government feels free to ban smoking because they want to save people from lung cancer today, will they be banning salt and sugar tomorrow to save people from hypertension and heart attack?
Will they also be making a law to stop us from taking more than one serving or rice because over-eating is a known cause of obesity?
How about beers and alcohol? If KJ’s GEG bill passes and if perchance Perikatan Nasional (PN) ever comes to power, I bet PAS will just love to make a GEG law for alcohol consumption too, also ostensibly for the sake of saving the next generation.
Can everything be solved just by creating a law? Even if KJ’s answer is yes, the cold hard truth is that there are many things that KJ needed to have done first to lay the groundwork to make the law effective before he took the sweeping action of making smoking illegal to an entire generation.
The very fact that he went straight for the much more glamorous X-Y-Z of making a GEG law – although he had not done his A-B-C’s – is simply because it is the X-Y-Z that would have given him the legacy although it is the A-B-C’s that would have actually improved public health.
This tells us that his legacy – more than public health – was really his major concern when he created the law.
While KJ is making it sound as if we lost an opportunity of a lifetime because we missed out on his GEG law, in reality, I doubt anything would have changed even if the GEG law had passed.
I think the only real losers in this entire episode are KJ and black-market cigarette smugglers. The black market cigarette smugglers lost an opportunity to make a killing at the expense of tobacco and vape companies while KJ lost an entry in his resume. – Nov 29, 2023
Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Malaysiakini