Anti-smoking council sounds alarm after Health Ministry officials shown being chums with tobacco industry reps

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) has expressed its concern today over a meeting between two senior officials from the Ministry of Health and representatives from the tobacco industry.

In a statement, the anti-smoking council said it is worried that the meeting would hinder the government’s effort to reduce tobacco consumption within the country.

“In recent days, two senior officials, both section heads, with the Ministry of Health in the Disease Control Division were seen meeting with tobacco product industry officials.

A social media post with pictures of these meetings was tagged as “meeting for future collaboration”.

“Worse, after this was highlighted in certain social media channels, efforts were taken to alter or delete photos pertaining to this, a clear signal of attempting to hide these meetings,” it said.

It did not name the two officials from the ministry.

The group said that the meeting violated the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control treaty which the country has ratified.

It said that Article 5.3 of FCTC has specifically stated measures to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

“It is the clear understanding of all parties involved in tobacco control that the FCTC Unit within the Ministry of Health is the only unit whose offices are tasked to have any sort of interaction with the tobacco industry; and that too in an official capacity in terms of regulating tobacco control.

“The meeting of these two officials, who are not with FCTC and have no legal or official standing with tobacco control measures, with tobacco product industry officials sends a worrying signal as to their purpose,” it added.

The group also called for an immediate investigation into this issue by the top management of the Health Ministry and for transparency in the results of these investigations once completed.

MCTC members include the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), National Cancer Council (Makna), National Cancer Society and Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca).

Former health ministry Khairy Jamaluddin was a top advocate for anti-tobacco efforts in the country after introducing Generation End Game (GEG) Bill last year which seeks to ban the use, possession and sale of cigarettes and vape products to those born after 2007.

His successor Dr Zaliha Mustafa from Pakatan Harapan said last month that she wished to retable the Bill in the first sitting of Parliament in 2023 following several concerns about its drastic implementation.