20 April 2022
By: Tharanya Arumugam Source: New Straits Times
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are largely receptive to the government’s Generational End Game (GEG) Policy, which seeks to introduce a bold new Tobacco and Smoking Control Act to ban smoking and possession of tobacco products, including electronic vaporisers for people born after 2005.
This was revealed in a recent survey, “Malaysian Acceptability of Generation End Game Policy: A Public Opinion Poll”, by the Malaysian Green Lung Association, a non-governmental organisation for tobacco control registered under the Registrar of Societies in Malaysia.
The online public poll, supported by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) showed that more than 97 per cent of 928 respondents were in favour of the GEG.
The policy was also supported by 95 per cent of the young respondents aged 24 and below and 89 per cent of smokers and vapers, the survey revealed.
“The poll found that 97.2 per cent of 928 respondents support the GEG. It found that 95 per cent of 457 respondents aged 18 to 24 who are also soon-to-be first-time voters in the 15th General Election welcome the proposed policy.
“Those born in 2005 or later (aged 17 or younger) who will be affected by the GEG fully supported the policy. Regarding gender distribution, the number of female respondents (98.1 per cent) who supported the GEG is greater than that of male respondents (95.6 per cent).
“Among 902 who were in favour of the GEG, 34 were current smokers, vapers, dual users or users of other tobacco products, making up 89.5 per cent of the smoking/vaping population.
“It is hoped that the poll findings can help the policymakers identify and thus address the awareness and understanding gaps among the public and the concerns raised by some respondents,” the Malaysian Green Lung Association shared.
The public poll, conducted online using Google Form from Feb 23, 2022, until March 13, 2022, was designed to collect data from all Malaysians, focusing on the young demographic aged 24 years old and younger cross-sectionally, it said.
“Convenient sampling was used to reach out to respondents. The poll link was disseminated through the network of non-governmental organisations and student societies.”
The Malaysian Green Lung Association noted that it is imperative for Malaysia to have a new tobacco control bill with a legislative mechanism in place to uproot smoking initiation and nicotine addiction starting from the generation born in 2005.
A new tobacco control bill with the GEG, it said should be passed and legislated to replace the current tobacco control regulations in view of their ineffectiveness in reducing the smoking prevalence.
Although some of the concerns raised by the non-supporters were valid, it said issues such as illicit trade and ineffective law enforcement have already been existent for years and will continue to exist, with or without the GEG.
“These issues are solvable and can be resolved given the right political will and stringent enforcement. There is no single best strategy for tobacco control, and a multi-pronged tobacco control strategy shall be adopted as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“Thus, these concerns from the minority shall be addressed but must never be made a barrier to the GEG legislation.
“The GEG, on the contrary, shall be evaluated in the interest of public health interest and the potential cost avoidance, including healthcare burden and loss in productivity. The benefits of the GEG apparently outweigh its drawbacks, and the majority’s voice must not be ignored,” it said.
Among the reasons cited for not supporting the GEG, were concerns about the impact of authoritarian policy on personal choice; weak enforcement; and the black market, the survey found.
Meanwhile, out of 928 respondents, the survey revealed that 23.4 per cent had not heard of the GEG policy before the public poll.
According to age groups, it was found that 31 per cent to 41 per cent of the population aged 24 years old and below was not aware of the GEG.
This implied that more awareness campaign is needed to be visible in the media space frequented by these groups of people, it added.
Smoking is the primary cause of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
According to National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, it was estimated that 4.8 million Malaysians aged 15 years and above currently are smokers. Meanwhile, e-cigarette use has the highest prevalence among smokers aged 20 to 24.
“In Malaysia, smoking causes 27200 death toll each year. The high morbidity and mortality rate due to smoking results in the loss of productivity and a heavy healthcare burden.
“The tobacco-related healthcare costs are estimated to be RM15.785 billion, and RM2.92 billion is spent explicitly on treating the top three most common smoking-related diseases, namely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease and lung cancer.
“Despite all the tobacco control measures taken in the past, the prevalence remains high without showing a significant drop.
“Thus, it is high time for the nation to have a new and more comprehensive tobacco control act to address the ever-evolving development of tobacco product and the inadequacy of the outmoded current tobacco control laws, which fails to reduce the high smoking prevalence and curb the increasing prevalence of new emerging tobacco products like vape and heat-not-burn,” the Malaysian Green Lung Association said.