PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged the health ministry to explain why it drastically reduced the fine for people who smoke in smoke-free zones under the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health 2023 Bill.
MMA president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said the current penalty for anyone caught smoking in smoke-free zones is a RM10,000 fine or two years’ imprisonment.
She pointed out that the bill passed by the Dewan Rakyat yesterday shows the fine has been reduced by 50% to RM5,000 and with no provision for a jail term.
“Is the health ministry taking a softer stance on the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on public health?” she said in a statement.
Azizan also expressed “profound disappointment” with the health ministry’s decision to drop the generational endgame (GEG) provisions from the bill, which still needs to be approved by the Senate.
She said the ministry effectively ignored the recommendations of the parliamentary committee on health, adding that it should have allowed MPs to debate if the provisions were constitutional or not in the first place.
“While the bill does prohibit the sale of tobacco and vape products to minors, it fails to indicate or even suggest a strategy to achieve a smoke-free (cigarette and vape) Malaysia, a cause which the ministry should be championing,” she said.
Azizan said the revised bill removed the term “smoking devices” for unknown reasons, and expressed concern over the omission.
Acknowledging the presence of a proposal for the investment, trade and industry ministry to regulate these devices, she maintained that they are best regulated by the health ministry to avoid enforcement overlaps.
“Moreover, there are disposable smoking devices sold in the market which come ready-made with the device already containing the liquid. This may be an issue if enforcement is carried out by two separate ministries.
“Going forward, MMA hopes the ministry will ensure regular, strict enforcement for these policies to be effective,” she said.
“We also hope to see stronger commitment from the ministry towards public health education, through more extensive anti-smoking and anti-vaping campaigns.”