Malaysia misses golden opportunity to protect future generations from addiction and disease

1 December 2023, Bangkok: By failing to include the Generational Endgame provision in the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act 2023, the Malaysian parliament has missed a golden opportunity to prevent future generations from becoming victims of the tobacco epidemic, even as it grapples with the existing tobacco and vaping problem, says the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). This new law, which will also regulate e-cigarettes, has been in the making for more than a decade.

“Now that a tobacco-free generation is no longer an immediate course of action, Malaysia must play catch-up with international best practices and its obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), including introducing standardized tobacco packaging, enforcing 100% smoke-free environments in all indoor public and work places, prohibiting flavored tobacco products, and enforcing its ban on tobacco sponsorships to include the fake corporate social responsibility activities of the tobacco industry,” said Ms. Tan Yen Lian of SEATCA.

The new law also puts Malaysia in a race against vape traders, who have already captured a large youth market since the delisting of nicotine as a poison in April 2023. More teens aged 13-17 years old are vaping than smoking in Malaysia: 14.9% vaping prevalence (boys: 23.5%, girls: 6.2%) compared to 6.2% smoking prevalence (boys:10.8%, girls:1.7%).

Other countries that allow sales of e-cigarettes, such as the UK, Indonesia, Philippines, Canada, and New Zealand, have all seen rapid and high uptake by youths, because enforcement is a challenge, as traders continue to advertise and sell to minors, offering products in innovative and appealing designs and thousands of flavors and making them easily accessible online.

According to SEATCA, Malaysia will need a strong and efficient enforcement team to protect children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. “While the new law requires registration of retailers, there is a need to speed up its full and strict implementation. The registration of Malaysia’s 50,000 cigarettes retailers, which began some time ago, is still incomplete, and regulators will have to race to similarly register vape traders. They will also need to work closely with the non-health sector to curb online sales and promotion of tobacco,” said Tan.

According to findings of SEATCA’s Asian Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023 report, tobacco industry interference is strong in Malaysia, which ranked 17 out of 19 Asian countries and whose scores deteriorated over the years in allowing the tobacco industry and its representatives in policy development, and senior government officials have been engaging in unnecessary interactions with the industry, contrary to its obligations under the WHO FCTC.

Contact Information: 

Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA 
Email: val@seatca.org   
Mobile: +639173124600

Relevant Link:

  1. Policy Brief: Safeguarding Public Health: Strict Regulation of Electronic Smoking Devices
  2. SEATCA Paper: Nicotine is a poison

 

About SEATCA
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.

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