In a surprising turn of events, the Malaysian government has decided to remove the generational endgame (GEG) clause from the proposed Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, leading to a wave of criticism and concerns from various quarters. The GEG clause, which aimed to ban tobacco and vape products for individuals born after January 1, 2007, was deemed unconstitutional by Attorney-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh.
According to Salleh, the age-based prohibition would create a legal dichotomy based on age, necessitating a change to Malaysia’s constitution. The government expressed doubts about securing the required two-thirds majority in Parliament for such a constitutional amendment, prompting the removal of the controversial clause.
This decision has not been well-received by anti-smoking activists, who argue that it contradicts the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by Malaysia in 1995. Critics believe that eliminating the GEG clause may expose children and adolescents to the risks of nicotine addiction and drug dependence.
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Family Medicine Specialists’ Association (FMSA) President Nor Hazlin Talib expressed outrage, stating, “We believe that this is a backward step that will lead the people of Malaysia, especially children and adolescents, into the realms of nicotine addiction and drug dependence.” The FMSA is urging the government to reconsider and reinstate the GEG clause, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing public health over political and economic interests.
The smoking bill, even with the removed GEG clause, contains various provisions addressing the regulation of tobacco products, advertising, packaging, and designated smoke-free areas. The contentious move to eliminate the age-based prohibition has stirred a national debate on the government’s commitment to public health and the potential consequences for Malaysia’s younger generations.
As Malaysia grapples with the aftermath of this decision, concerns about the country’s stance on tobacco control, the influence of political considerations, and adherence to international treaties continue to dominate public discourse. The fate of the smoking bill and its potential amendments remains uncertain as the government faces pressure to strike a balance between constitutional considerations and public health imperatives.