The memorandum highlighted several issues concerning the proposed smoking prohibition.
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The Retail and Trade Brand Advocacy Malaysia Chapter (RTBA Malaysia)—a non-governmental organisation that safeguards businesses from criminal conduct—handed a memorandum opposing the Generation Endgame (GEG) policy to Masjid Tanah Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, along with several other MPs, yesterday.
Mas Ermieyati is a member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC), responsible for reviewing the Tobacco and Smoking Products Control Bill 2022. The GEG policy, which forms part of the bill, seeks to ban the use and sale of cigarettes and vape products to those born after 2007.
RTBA Malaysia Managing Director Datuk Fazli Nordin believes that they have a significant role to play in sharing the concerns of Malaysian businesses on issues that are pertinent in the industry.
He explains that the GEG policy does not only concern businesses, but also many layers of Malaysian society including lawyers, consumers, and even medical professionals.
Our objective, in handing the memorandum, was to ensure the MPs who will be present at the Parliament sessions are aware of the views of Malaysian citizen on the Bill and the GEG policy. Part of our submission included a petition by Malaysia Bersuara that has garnered over 760,000 signatures. This is a very substantial figure, and shows that the GEG policy is not seen as a pragmatic solution to reduce smoking prevalence.RTBA Malaysia Managing Director Datuk Fazli Nordin
The memorandum highlighted several issues with the GEG and its proposed implementation:
Impact on businesses & economy
GEG policy will have an industry-wide economic impact, taking away revenue from legal retailers and entrepreneurs. The vape industry, which is primarily made up of Bumiputera SMEs, will also be affected, as their industry will shrink considerably through the years if the GEG is implemented.
Impact on freedom & discrimination of Malaysian citizens
GEG policy is in violation of Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution which guarantees equality and equal protection under the law which means that the law must operate alike on all persons under the same circumstances. Therefore, setting an age limit on a permanent prohibition of smoking is discriminatory and against the spirit of Article 8.
Further, the GEG policy creates differential treatment of one group of individuals (born after 2007), who will be prohibited for life from smoking or vaping, despite reaching the legal age of 21.
Increase in illegal tobacco
The GEG policy will fuel the already significant tobacco black market, which currently commands around 60% of the total market in Malaysia. Through prohibitive measures, the country is likely to see a boom in the black market as illegal cigarettes would be in higher demand, and thus, much easily accessible to the generation affected by the GEG.
Further, the ban on vaping will push retailers underground, where they will be able to sell vape products without adhering to any regulations.
Differentiating cigarettes and vape
The current GEG policy positions cigarettes and vape in the same category. Science, however, has clearly indicated that cigarettes and vape are completely different products with different risk levels. By equating both products, the Health Ministry is setting dangerous precedence and one that may deter smokers from switching to the less harmful vape.
Integrated into tobacco control policies, such as the GEG, harm reduction could be a game-changer in the battle against non-communicable diseases. Globally, there is compelling data that shows that consumers prefer to make safer choices when provided with less harmful alternatives and the right information by credible experts.
Fazli concluded that the GEG will impact all Malaysian citizens, regardless if they smoke or not.
We urge our MPs to thoroughly review all aspects of the Bill and the GEG before approving for implementation. We do not want to be in a situation where the GEG is implemented in a rush, only to suffer the consequences later.RTBA Malaysia Managing Director Datuk Fazli Nordin