A new law will be introduced to ban smoking and possession of tobacco products, including vape, for the generation born after 2005, as a Generational End Game for smoking in the country, says Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
He said the introduction of the law would be able to reduce the future generation’s exposure to cigarettes and tobacco products as tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer and contributes to 22 per cent of deaths due to cancer.
“Meaning, if you are 17 years old and Parliament passed the Act, you will never able to buy cigarettes in this country ever again,” he said when launching the ministry’s Cancer Day celebration, virtually today.
Meanwhile, Khairy said cancer cases had increased by 11 per cent to 115,238 for the period of 2012 to 2016 from 103,507 cases recorded from 2007 to 2011.
It is estimated that one in 10 men and one in nine women are at risk of getting cancer, he said.
The three most common types of cancer among men in Malaysia are colorectal cancer (16.9 per cent), lung cancer (14.8 per cent) and prostate cancer (8.1 per cent), while among women, breast cancer (33.9 per cent), colorectal cancer (10.7 per cent) and cervical cancer (6.2 per cent).
Khairy said cancer is also the leading cause of death recorded at private hospitals (34.95 per cent) and the fourth cause of death in government hospitals (11.56 per cent).
This year alone, he said the government had allocated RM137 million for Radiotherapy and Oncology Services and the amount did not include other costs such as imaging and laboratories for diagnosis confirmation, surgery and anesthesiology, rehabilitation and palliative care services.
At the event, Khairy also launched the National Strategic Plan for Cancer Control Programme (NSPCCP) 2021-2025 book, and the National Strategic Plan for Colorectal Cancer (NSPCRC) 2021-2025 book.
The NSPCCP 2021-2025 contains the objectives and strategies for all areas of focus, encompassing prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, palliative care, traditional and complementary treatment, surveillance and monitoring (Cancer Registry), research and human resources.
The NSPCRC 2021-2025, on the other hand, is the subset of the NSPCCP 2021-2025 and is a colorectal cancer action plan for the ministry to control colorectal, the second common type of cancer in Malaysia.
If Parliament approves this tobacco prohibition, the government would have less than a year to come up with a mechanism to make sure that cigarettes are not sold to 18-year-old adults in 2023. But if it’s going to be anything like the beginning of the smoking ban at eateries, they’d need to step it up. When a Ministry’s WhatsApp number was introduced for the public to report cases of smokers that violate the ban, the replies were non-existent and it didn’t seem like it was even worth it to report. If the new Act is passed, stores would also probably be required to perform ID checks on buyers for cigarettes and tobacco products.
Malaysia isn’t the first country to plan the ban of tobacco for the future generations—as New Zealand reportedly plans to ban the sale of tobacco to people born after 2008. The new law will also reduce the number of shops that can sell tobacco from 2024, and allow only smoked tobacco products containing very low levels of nicotine to be sold from 2025.