Why Malaysia needs one law to cover all tobacco products

(Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A former health ministry official has called on Putrajaya to develop an umbrella law on all tobacco products so as to plug loopholes in existing regulations.

Dr Zarihah Zain, medical director of the Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH) said tobacco companies would generally find ways to circumvent the laws.

“What the government should do is develop an airtight law to control tobacco consumption,” she said. She said the existing Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 were too cigarette centric.

Last week, media reports highlighted the sale of “mini-cigars” in East Malaysia without pictorial health warnings or being subject to pricing requirements as they were not considered cigarettes.

Zarihah, a pioneer officer in the health ministry’s Tobacco Control Unit, said Malaysia could take a leaf from Singapore’s Tobacco Act which covers everything that contained tobacco.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just look at what Singapore does because, without a standalone law, loopholes will continue to be exploited.”

Zarihah said all tobacco products had been proven harmful and should be subject to the same regulatory requirements as cigarettes.

British American Tobacco Malaysia had defended the sale of its Dunhill cigarello “mini-cigars” in East Malaysia as legitimate tobacco products which complied with the health ministry and Royal Malaysian Customs Department laws.