It was cowardly and irresponsible, says Khairy

15 March 2024

By Martin Carvalho, Arfa Yunus, Benjamin Lee, Tarrence Tan and Ragananthini Vethasalam, The Star

PETALING JAYA: Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin (pic) says he has finally been proven right while those in the medical profession expressed shock and are demanding an explanation after it was revealed that Big Tobacco and the vape industry had influenced ministers and MPs.

Khairy said he knew all along about the lobbying but had nonetheless tried to implement the Generational Endgame (GEG). He said he now felt vindicated after Deputy Health Minister Datuk Lukanisman Awang Sauni confirmed in Parliament the tobacco and vape industries were behind the snuffing out of the GEG.

“I am glad Lukanisman is honest enough to admit that Big Tobacco has penetrated the government, the Cabinet and our MPs,” said Khairy, who also labelled the government as “cowardly and irresponsible” when it removed the GEG component from the anti-smoking bill.

He pointed out that Malaysia is a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention of Tobacco Control which disallows tobacco lobbyists from influencing national policies.

“Under the framework convention on tobacco control, you are not supposed to allow Big Tobacco to influence policy decisions.

“I am saddened that this happened during this government’s time,” said Khairy.

“They were irresponsible because they did not think of the future generation. They were also cowardly because they caved into whatever reasons Big Tobacco gave them.”

He said that if the government was too afraid to introduce GEG provisions, the least it could do was to tighten existing regulations on tobacco sales.

“Introduce plain packaging regulations first. Second, bring in the display ban, where cigarettes cannot be displayed in stores and have to be stored in drawers,” said Khairy.

He also urged for tighter regulations concerning vape sales, saying they are being sold rampantly to minors.

“Who do you think these flavours like strawberry, raspberry are being catered to? They are catered to minors,” added Khairy, who also took Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad to task for being slow in tabling vape regulations to the Cabinet.

He also noted the lack of vape regulation after nicotine was de-listed from the Poisons Act during former health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s tenure.

“First thing, bring the regulations to Cabinet quickly. The regulation has to be clear and tight about where you can sell vape.”

Former Health Ministry official and public health expert Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said Lukanisman’s revelation was shocking.

“The truth has finally come out. There have been the rumours that were discussed among anti-tobacco groups,” he said.

“This shouldn’t happen if the government really cares about the health of current and future generations.”

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Azizan Abdul Aziz said the government now owes the people an explanation over the revelation.

“It looks like the truth is finally out,” she said.

“It’s very disappointing to hear about the kind of influence big tobacco and the vape industry has on such an important public health Bill.”

SEATCA In Touch

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter for the latest news and updates on our work in the ASEAN region and beyond.