Tobacco Generation Endgame: Enough Moral Police!

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LETTER | In January 2022, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced plans to ban anyone who turns 18 next year from buying tobacco products.

The proposal has been applauded by public health NGOs concerned about the high prevalence of tobacco use in Malaysia.

Despite numerous laws introduced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) since 2004, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019, there are 4.8 million smokers in 2021 compared to 4.7 million smokers in 2011 .

Meanwhile, although the Department of Health has the power to act against cigarettes sold below the minimum retail price, six out of 10 packs are sold below the official price of RM12.00 per pack of 20 sticks .

Now the Department of Health is seeking to table a new law in parliament that discriminates against adults based on their year of birth.

Anyone born on or before midnight on December 31, 2004 is allowed to buy tobacco products, while anyone unfortunate enough to be born one minute later is forever banned from making an adult life choice.

From December 15, 2021, the legal voting age for MPs has been reduced to 18, allowing adults to select their representatives in Parliament and State Assemblies, but the same 18-year-old will not be able to stand. go to their local retailer to buy a pack of tobacco products.

The older generation always tried to control the next generation on the basis of “I know better now”. This led to rock music and long hair being banned in the 1980s, rap music in the 1990s, black metal in the 2000s, and more.

It’s like our teachers scolding us for playing football in the rain and mud.

Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin

If tobacco products can be made illegal for anyone born after 2005, what’s stopping the Department of Health from extending the same ban to other unpopular products like sugary drinks or alcohol.

Malaysia has the highest prevalence of adult obesity in Southeast Asia. According to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 50.1% of our adult population is overweight (30.4%) or obese (19.7%).

Khairy should also include a ban on the consumption of sugary drinks and alcohol by adults while he works to protect future generations from tobacco products.

The generational endgame policy institutionalizes the discrimination and criminalization of an entire generation of Malaysian adults born after 2005.

Given the lackadaisical enforcement of minimum age laws, which incidentally it is also the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to enforce, there will be consumption even by people born after 2005.

Which merchant will ask a person who obviously looks like an adult for their NRIC when buying a tobacco product?

As a result, a person who tries to buy a pack of cigarettes is now a criminal and liable to penalties.

If implemented here, Malaysia will be the first country in the world to enact a generational endgame law.

Even New Zealand, where the idea was proposed after years of study and public health campaigning, has yet to draft legislation for its parliament.

Malaysians deserve better than to be experimented with with an untested policy that is entirely alien to the freedoms of being a Malaysian.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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