Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has outlined plans to completely ban smoking for the next generation of Malaysians, following New Zealand’s historic move to implement a similar law banning the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2008. Khairy said that he will table a new Tobacco and Smoking Control Act in the upcoming Parliament meeting, set to run from 28 February to 24 March, which will replace the current tobacco product control legislations under the Food Act 1983.
Calling it a “generation end-game” for smoking in the country, Khairy said the new bill will also regulate e-cigarettes and vape products. “For too long, our health care system has been burdened with health care issues resulting from smoking. This allocation will enable smoking to be phased out in stages until one day in future, Malaysia will be a smoke-free country,” said the Health Minister.
A decade in the making, New Zealand announced last month plans to progressively ban the sale of all cigarettes in the country, while still allowing current tobacco addicts to buy cigarettes by raising the legal smoking age every year. Singapore has expressed interest in devising a similar ban and will be studying the implementation of New Zealand’s law.
Khairy did not specify when the proposed legislation would go into effect, nor did he reveal the cutoff year of birth for the cohort smoking ban. Interestingly, Malaysia’s 2020 report to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) found that Malaysians start smoking at an early age, with 21.3% of those aged 15 and older taking up the habit.
Malaysia’s efforts to rein in smoking include a total ban for smoking in eateries, with more than 12,000 compounds issued to errant smokers last year, the lowest amount since the policy was implemented in 2019. The Ministry of Health also has a free programme for those who need help to quit smoking called mQuit.