Bandar Kuching MP hopes for ‘improved Act’ following anti-smoking Bill’s referral to Special Select Committee

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, Aug 2: Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) for Health, Science, and Innovation chairman Dr Kelvin Yii expressed delight that the government agreed with his proposal for a review of the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022, ensuring the birth of an ‘improved Act’ that will change society for the better.

According to his statement, the Bill, which was tabled for the second reading in Parliament yesterday, is a significant effort to break the harmful cycle of smoking and nicotine addiction and protect future generations’ health and well-being.

He stated that such legislations, which include new regulations governing both tobacco and vaping, as well as innovations such as end-generation gaming (GEG), aim to regulate further the use of tobacco products and the vape industry, which is currently unregulated and unmonitored, as well as introducing an end game to prevent future generations from picking up such harmful habits.

“All levels of society should support such intentions. We are all aware of the dangers of smoking and its effects on our health and those around us,” he said.

Dr Yii noted that data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that for every death caused by smoking, three people are affected, from the brain to the toes, and the effects are not limited to the heart or lungs.

Furthermore, he revealed that data from the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) shows that for every RM1 collected through tobacco taxes, the government must pay RM4 to treat diseases caused by tobacco use.

Based on an estimate, he added, RM5 billion in tax revenue could result in RM20 billion in government spending on treating tobacco-related diseases.

“That is why, in an ideal and romantic world, there would be no debate about the significance of this Bill.

“However, we understand that in the context of our country, there are real concerns about implementation gaps, possible loopholes, and overreaching enforcement powers,” he highlighted.

Dr Yii, who is also the Bandar Kuching MP, expressed concern about provisions in the Bill that grant enforcement officers the authority to enter any premises, as well as the authority to search and seize without a warrant, including a body search by officers of the same gender on suspicion of possessing any tobacco products.

“This is disproportionate and vulnerable to abuse, especially when different agencies’ enforcement is inconsistent.

“That is why the PSC on Health, Science, and Innovation recommended delaying the implementation of the GEG, not just to delay what is good, but to prepare a proper enforcement framework to ensure the law does not victimise those we want to protect. This includes honing the powers of the enforcers,” he explained.

Dr Yii remarked that the Minister has been open and progressive in accepting their recommendations.

In addition, he continued stating that a person addicted to nicotine has the right to be treated equally under the law, with compassion and dignity.

“However, it is important to thoroughly review all clauses in the Act to ensure that they reflect the concessions agreed with the Minister and address any other issues in the Bill.

“That is why, during my debate, I proposed to the Minister that it be thoroughly reviewed by the Special Select Committee to ensure that safeguards are put in place to prevent abuse while still preserving the spirit of the Bill.

“This review is not an attempt to further delay the Bill, as the timeline for GEG implementation is unaffected because it has been agreed to be delayed for two years,” he added.

Dr Yii, who is also the Democratic Action Party Socialist Youth (DAPSY) national chief, went on to say that what is more important is that a ‘good law’ is enacted and that all concerns are addressed to increase compliance and ensure the law achieves its intended goal.

“I firmly believe the Committee can commit to work on the Bill extensively and target it as one of the first agenda through government agreement in the upcoming Parliament session scheduled in October.

“It is our responsibility as MPs to examine the Bill from all perspectives. This is not an attempt to delay, but rather to ensure that we come up with a better Bill that achieves its goal without unintended consequences,” he said. — DayakDaily