A complete application plan is required

THE The Cabinet has approved the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill (2022) which prohibits those born on and after January 1, 2007 from smoking and possessing tobacco and vaping products.

Malaysia’s age-restricted smoking ban based on a taper strategy (analogous to the Fed’s quantitative tightening or QT by phasing out its purchases of long-term US Treasury bonds) – which parallels that of New Zealand – has been dubbed the “end of the generational game”. (GEG).

It is motivated by the fact that smoking is one of the leading causes of death nationally and globally.

In a research article, “Prevalence and factors associated with adult smoking in Malaysia: results from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015” published by Tobacco Induced Diseases (2018), it is pointed out that the percentage of those who smoked (15 years and older) was 22.8%.

However, as Code Blue pointed out, Malaysia’s 2020 report to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) showed that the country’s smoking rates have to hardly diminished.

The percentage of those who smoked fell from 22.8% in 2015 to just 21.3% in 2019 (among individuals aged 15 and over).

The 2020 WHO FCTC report is based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, which found that 21.3% equates to approximately 4.9 million Malaysians aged 15 and over.

According to the WHO, approximately 22.3% of the world’s population used tobacco products in 2020 and more than 80% of tobacco users worldwide come from low- and middle-income countries.

Now, smoking has been banned in restaurants since 1 January 2019, which falls under the Tobacco Products Control Regulations 2004 (a ministerial or executive order made under the parent legislation) which was amended in December 2018 to extend the smoking ban to extend coverage. from banning air-conditioned restaurants to non-air-conditioned and outdoor outlets such as open-air hawker centers and street stalls.

In a study titled “Influence of Restaurant Smoking Ban on Smoking Attitudes Among Adult Smokers in Klang Valley, Malaysia”, published by the Malaysian Journal of Public Health Medicine (2020), it was found that “banning smoking in restaurants and restaurants was significantly associated with intention to quit smoking. A total of 73.8% of smokers agreed that banning smoking in restaurants and restaurants reduced their daily smoking frequency and 58.3% of smokers agreed that the nationwide smoking ban in restaurants and public places encourages them to quit smoking”.

The researchers concluded that “smoking bans are beneficial in helping to reduce the prevalence of smoking among smokers, which in turn helps reduce second-hand smoking and the burden of long-term non-communicable diseases (NCDs)” .

On the other hand, anecdotal evidence and news reports have suggested that the results are also rather mixed.

According to a survey of Berita Harian in 2020, strict enforcement was only carried out at the beginning of the policy’s implementation, but quickly relaxed after the first quarter.

Overall, this seems to suggest – taking into account the time interval between the study and the survey respectively – that the positive results of smoking bans can only be seen in the longer term. However, the bottom line remains that the government cannot afford to relax or abandon its implementation and enforcement efforts.

To that end, the government may need a bit more time to come up with a more comprehensive plan to ensure that this ban on GEG will still be strictly implemented and enforced.

Therefore, it was perhaps appropriate for the government to decide to extend the year limit to 2007 instead of 2005 as originally planned, as this will allow more time for the government to prepare accordingly. We cannot afford not to go all the way.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has reportedly said that if nothing is done to address the smoking problem in the country, it will cost the government RM8 billion by 2030 to treat lung cancer, diseases heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other forms of NCDs.

The vested interests in the tobacco industry are understandably angry.

The Malaysian Confederation of Tobacco Manufacturers said the ban could cost the government more than RM5 billion in revenue.

On the other hand, according to the Minister of Health, the tobacco industry is relatively small as it contributes only 0.18% of the gross domestic product.

Its value-added output generated in 2021 was only RM2.8 billion.

And as economist Lee Heng Guie also pointed out, employment in the tobacco industry is only 1,200 workers, or 0.05% of employment in the broader manufacturing sector.

He reportedly stated that “Malaysia is a net importer of tobacco products, which account for approximately 0.05% of total imports. The share of exports is even lower at 0.02% of total exports”.

As it stands, tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer, contributing to 22% of cancer deaths.

The Ministry of Health reported an 11% increase in the number of cancer cases.

From 2007 to 2011 there were 103,507 cancer cases while from 2012 to 2016 there were 115,238 cancer cases.

The ministry has estimated that to treat lung cancer alone costs about RM132.7 million per year. In a daily newspaper, it was reported that Dr. Lee Boon Chye, former Vice Minister of Health, argued that research has indicated that the treatment of smoking-related diseases, on the whole, that is, say lung cancer and heart problems, cost the government and private sector between RM 7 billion. and RM8 billion per year.

Clearly, the negative consequences of smoking are far greater than the economic gains.

To this end, EMIR Research would like to recommend several policy measures to improve Malaysia’s GEG ban policy.

Also follow New Zealand’s lead in reducing nicotine content

New Zealand has a lower number of smokers than Malaysia, where only 9.4% of adult New Zealanders aged 15 and over smoke. (pictures).

In addition to banning GEGs, New Zealand also aims to drastically reduce the nicotine content of tobacco so that it is not so addictive that it makes quitting difficult.

Additionally, New Zealand plans to set a maximum number of shops allowed to sell tobacco in designated areas.

We should also emulate New Zealand in this regard, discouraging current smokers from continuing their dirty habit.

Minimize illegal transactions

To start, we can include a serial number for each cigarette and vape pack/wrapper. In this way, each retailer can register the buyer and serial numbers, ie transactions, through an online system interfaced with the law enforcement authorities’ own database.

As such, it should be made compulsory and obligatory for all smokers (buyers/shoppers) to download an app that would host the online platform (which is interoperable and shared with enforcement authorities) through which the details of the transaction (electronic form) can be saved.

The next step will be for the retailer to deploy a special radio frequency identification scanner to scan the serial number as printed like any barcode (found on typical purchase products that are checked at the counter) on the cigarette packaging next to the purchaser’s National Registration Identification Number (NRIC or IC) (which can then be replaced by a future biometric or national digital identification).

Scanning the IC number – as captured by the ‘gold’/’plated’ colored (micro)chip – will allow the online system to determine the authenticity of the details provided by the buyer.

Currently, as part of the proposed track and trace measure, an end-to-end system called Tobacco Track and Trace (TTT) is to be implemented.

As part of the TTT system, a security tag will be used which will contain multi-level security features, with an “ultra-fine definition image enabling three levels of authentication” based on advanced holographic technologies, which will then be integrated to the existing digital system. tax stamps to combat illicit cigarettes.

Nevertheless, the TTT system, which provides access to the entire supply chain, is sufficiently inadequate because it does not seem to really solve the problem of the application of the point of sale, i.e. in specific relation to the prohibition of GEGs.

Authorities can then verify the regularity and legality of transactions through the online system by tracking and tracing serial numbers.

It cannot be overemphasized that the implementation of an online system must be done via open tender (only).

Reliable suggestions are emerging recently that the proposed TTT system will be directly awarded through a direct negotiation basis to one of the two parties, either Green Packet Bhd or Privasia Technology Berhad.

At the same time, recurring issues related to consumer data protection and privacy need to be seriously addressed.

This area of ​​grave concern only reinforces the critical and absolute need for an open bidding system.

We don’t want to see a repeat of the mess and mess associated with owning and developing the MySejahtera app and, for ext

sion, the concomitant problems related to a possible data breach.

Incidentally, the MySejahtera app also falls under the same remit of the Ministry of Health as the primary actor in GEG banning policy and legislation.

Jason Oh and Anis Salwana Abdul Malik are part of the research team at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research. Comments: [email protected]

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