KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 — DAP lawmaker Yeo Bee Yin has today called for more time to study the Generational End Game (GEG) Bill on tobacco control before Parliament votes on it, comparing Malaysia’s approach to New Zealand’s (NZ) similar law on the matter.
Citing NZ’s amendments that were tabled in its Parliament on the same week as Malaysia’s, Yeo said authorities there were only given limited enforcement powers unlike the Bill here.
“In terms of enforcement, Malaysia’s Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill gives wide-ranging power to the enforcement powers whereas New Zealand enforcement officers only have the power to enter premises that are not residential or dwelling places for investigation and other enforcement actions will need a warrant,” the Bakri MP said in a statement.
Malaysia’s Bill also stipulates that enforcement officers can enter all premises to search and seize without a warrant, demand passwords to access data on personal devices, open packages, and search vehicles — all of which NZ’s Bill does not agree to.
“Why do enforcement officers in Malaysia need so much power that New Zealand officers don’t? Do these clauses infringe personal privacy and human rights?” Yeo asked.
She also pointed to the slow and cautious approach by NZ compared to Malaysia’s relatively hasty attempt to pass the Bill.
“New Zealand MPs are given four months to consider amendments to an existing law, but Malaysia MPs are expected to decide in less than a week for an entirely new bill. Is it right for Malaysian MPs to support a bill without much deliberation in the name of good intention?” she asked.
Yeo also noted that New Zealand’s prevalence of illicit cigarettes stands at six to seven per cent, compared to Malaysia’s which is at a higher rate of 28 per cent.
The former energy minister said that with a much higher issue of illicit cigarettes in Malaysia coupled with weaker enforcement capabilities, an earlier start date for the generation ban, and the inclusion of vapes in the ban might spell failure for the GEG.
“New Zealand’s version of GEG prohibits to sell, supply and deliver tobacco products to persons born on/after January 1, 2009, whereas Malaysia’s GEG includes the prohibition of persons born on/after January 1, 2007 to smoke and possess tobacco products. Which type of prohibition is more effective? Or is prohibition the right way to go?” “In addition, Tobacco Product and Smoking Control Bill is a new Bill, which also includes other tobacco control measures such as vape industry regulation, plain packaging, prohibition of display, etc. What is the impact on society when this law comes into force?” Yeo said.
She said that there is currently no Regulatory Impact Assessment report available to the MPs.
She further suggested that the Bill should be sent to the relevant parliamentary select committees such as the ones on health, science and innovation, on women, children and social development, and also the one on fundamental liberty and constitutional right for a more comprehensive discussion.
If the Bill is passed, those born on or after January 1, 2007, will not be allowed to smoke, buy or own any tobacco products including e-cigarettes and vapes.
On July 28, the Health, Science and Innovation parliamentary select committee suggested that the Bill should have a mandated evaluation period and monitoring framework to check its effectiveness.
The committee also suggested that youths found in possession of any banned products should not be imprisoned or criminalised.