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Only 12 lawmakers vote Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, Codeblue polls show

It is unclear what the proposed penalties are for retailers who sell cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to those turning 18 next year or younger or how enforcers would punish teenagers or children aged 18 years and under for smoking or vaping.. STR/ MU

KUALA LUMPUR: With minimal backing from members of Parliament (MP) on either side of the political divide, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin will probably have difficulty getting his ambitious proposal to outlaw tobacco and e-cigarettes for future generations through Parliament.

In a CodeBlue poll conducted last Monday, only 12 lawmakers, or 30 per cent of respondents, said they would vote for the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill out of the 220-member Dewan Rakyat's 40 MPs from the Opposition and the government backbench.

The 12 MPs in favour of the tobacco bill comprise six from PKR: Nurul Izzah Anwar (Permatang Pauh), Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Pandan), Dr Lee Boon Chye (Gopeng), Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Setiawangsa), Wong Chen (Subang), and Sim Tze Tzin (Bayan Baru); three from Amanah: Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor), Mujahid Yusof Rawa (Parit Buntar), and Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena); as well as three Umno backbenchers: Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (Padang Rengas), Mohd Nizar Zakaria (Parit), and Hasan Arifin (Rompin).

Two federal lawmakers openly said they would not vote for the tobacco bill, namely Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng (DAP) and Selayang MP William Leong Jee Keen (PKR), Social Health Analytics Sdn Bhd or CodeBlue said in a report.

26 MPs (11 DAP, five PKR, one Amanah, one Pejuang, three Umno, one Bersatu, one PAS, one GPS, and two independent politicians) reserved their votes until the draught legislation was published and after Khairy briefed the lawmakers.

Codeblue, in a report, further said the majority of these undecided MPs appeared to lean toward opposing the tobacco bill in its current form as they raised several issues with the generational ban on tobacco and e-cigarettes, including issues with enforcement, illegal trade, the effect on Malaysia's domestic e-cigarette market, and the impact on the personal freedoms of the next generation, who would not be allowed to purchase cigarettes or e-cigarettes even when they reach middle age.

Not one of a dozen DAP MPs polled by CodeBlue directly expressed support for the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill.

DAP, the biggest party in the Dewan Rakyat with 42 MPs, typically votes on bills as a bloc.

Opposition Leader and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said he would only vote for the tobacco bill if it were amended to include 'mechanisms for effective implementation.'

"There are many issues not resolved. So you have to revise it; you don't bulldoze legislation that has a massive impact – rural, Orang Asli – you have to find them, you have to negotiate with them too," Anwar told CodeBlue briefly when met in Parliament yesterday.

Umno president and Bagan Datuk MP Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told CodeBlue when approached in Parliament yesterday: "Let's just wait and see," before adding, "I may not even vote."

DAP national chairman Lim Guan Eng said: "I have to look at the bill first."

Khairy has yet to table the tobacco bill in the current Dewan Rakyat meeting that ends in less than three weeks on August 4.

To date, the only publicly available information regarding the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill is that the proposed legislation prohibits the sale of cigarettes, tobacco, and vape to anyone born on or after January 1, 2005.

It is unclear what the proposed penalties are for retailers who sell cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to those turning 18 next year or younger or how enforcers would punish teenagers or children aged 18 years and under for smoking or vaping.

The main contention among DAP lawmakers with the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill is Khairy's touted "generation end game" (GEG) to smoking and vaping that he has made the cornerstone of the tobacco control law, CodeBlue reported.

The health minister recently added this provision to legislation that has been 12 years in the making and was intended to be a standalone principal law rather than continuing to place tobacco control regulations under the Food Act 1983.

"The greatest chance of passing the tobacco bill is to decouple the GEG from it," Klang MP Charles Santiago from the DAP told CodeBlue.

Outgoing PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told CodeBlue that PH's health committee has suggested inserting a sunset clause into the tobacco bill to enable a review of the generational ban on tobacco and vape after three or five years as more evidence becomes available.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's government has typically passed bills with unanimous support from Pakatan Harapan (PH) – comprising PKR, DAP, Amanah, and Upko – due to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that is scheduled to end on July 31.

As a result, strong Opposition from PH lawmakers may force Ismail Sabri's administration to avoid altogether delaying the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill unless the proposed law is amended based on suggestions from the Opposition coalition and passed by the House without the need for a bloc vote.

Codeblue noted that if Ismail Sabri's government and PH agree to end their bipartisan cooperation on July 31, Khairy is free to table the tobacco bill in the last week of the current Dewan Rakyat meeting from August 1 to 4 and to try to whip up votes across the aisle.

However, without express support from Umno government backbenchers who are not aligned with Ismail Sabri or from DAP, the largest voting bloc in the House, the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, in its current form, may fail passage in Parliament.

https://www.nst.com.my/business/2022/07/814958/only-12-lawmakers-vote-tobacco-and-smoking-control-bill-codeblue-polls-show

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