MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, September 30, 2022

Malaysia not ready for GEG law, says think tank


Datametrics Research and Information managing director Pankaj Kumar says adopting a tobacco harm reduction approach would be a better solution than pushing through the Generational End Game bill.

PETALING JAYA: A think tank has suggested that the government wait until illicit trade in tobacco has been dramatically reduced before moving ahead with the so-called Generational End Game (GEG) bill.

Datametrics Research and Information (DARE) managing director Pankaj Kumar told FMT Malaysia might not be ready for such a law with illicit trade accounting for more than half of cigarette sales in the country and smoking prevalence being at 21%.

Pankaj said the law might worsen the illicit trade problem which had cost the government RM5 billion in revenue loss.

He said smoking incidence in Malaysia, at 21%, was about double the incidence in Singapore and New Zealand.

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“Illicit trade of cigarettes in Malaysia stands at 58.4% whereas it’s 11.5% in New Zealand and 13.8% in Singapore,” he said.

He predicted that illicit trade would reach nearly 62% if cigarettes were banned for those born in 2007 and later, increasing the overall black market value from RM8.2 billion to RM8.7 billion.

The GEG bill, officially known as the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022, seeks to ban the use, possession and sale of cigarettes and vape products to those born after 2007.

Pankaj said adopting a tobacco harm reduction approach would be a better solution, citing the experience of New Zealand and Britain, where the smoking prevalence dropped after vaping was promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking.

According to the 2021 New Zealand Health Survey, increased access to vaping products correlated with a significant decrease in daily smoking, from 11.9% in 2020 to 9.4% in 2021.

Malaysian Vape Industry Advocacy president Rizani Zakaria said cigarettes and vape, being completely different products, should be regulated differently.

He said equating the two would give the impression that they posed the same risk and make tobacco users apprehensive about quitting smoking.

He claimed that it might also cause some former smokers who had switched to vape to go back to tobacco.

Rizani also said the bill would result in the local vape industry going out of business, affecting many entrepreneurs.

Petaling Jaya Coffeeshop Association president Keu Kok Meng said his main concern would be enforcement and the harsh punishment set out under the bill.

He said it was “scary” that the bill allowed the health minister to appoint “any person” to conduct raids at coffee shops on suspicion of non-compliance with the law.

Under Clause 13 of the bill, any person found guilty of selling cigarettes or vape products to a person born in 2007 or later could be fined RM20,000 or imprisoned for a year or both.

“We are not in the kind of business that warrants such a ludicrous penalty, especially when we’re only getting about RM1 in profit from the sale of each pack of cigarettes,” he said.

Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin tabled the bill for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat in July.

Following the second reading and resistance from MPs, industry players and other quarters, the Dewan Rakyat voted to refer the bill to a parliamentary select committee (PSC).

Khairy has said he agreed to refer the bill to the PSC to ensure that a comprehensive law was passed.

The PSC would produce a report on its recommended improvements within a month or not later than the start of the next parliamentary sitting. - FMT

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