No timeframe set for second reading of GEG bill

PETALING JAYA: No timeframe has been set yet for the second reading of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 to be tabled for second reading in the Dewan Rakyat.

Special Adviser to the Health Minister Dr Kelvin Yii said the parliamentary special select committee on health would first have to submit its report on the bill to the Health Ministry which would then hold an engagement session with stakeholders.

"Only after that will the cabinet discuss when the bill would be tabled for second reading," he told reporters after attending the launch of the digital medical platform, Doctors Anywhere.

The bill, sometimes called the generational endgame (GEG) bill, is aimed at banning the use, purchase and sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vape products to those born from Jan 1, 2007, onwards.

On June 12, the bill was tabled for first reading in Parliament, but Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa then said the bill would be referred to the PSSC on health before being debated in Parliament.

"After taking into consideration the engagement session with the PSSC on health on June 6, as well as with members of parliament (MPs), professionals and non-governmental organisations, there were requests that some matters be scrutinised further.

"This bill is crucial; undivided support from all parties is needed. The ministry decided to refer the bill to the PSSC, where it would serve as a check-and-balance mechanism that will take into account views of all parties," she had told the lower house when tabling the bill.

During a special chambers session later, Dr Zaliha had said the ministry's move to once again refer the bill to the PSSC was made following calls by stakeholders, including individuals in the fraternity, to have it studied further.

"The committee will scrutinise each of the words in the bill, so that when the debate takes place later, everyone involved would already have a better understanding of it.

"This will ensure that it can be approved in a swift manner," she said, urging all MPs to support the bill aimed to protect future generations against the dangers of smoking.

Under the proposed law, those found guilty of selling any tobacco products or services for smoking to individuals born on Jan 1, 2007 and beyond face a maximum fine of RM20,000 and one year's imprisonment, and a maximum RM30,000 fine and two years' jail for each subsequent offence.

Meanwhile, corporations found guilty of the same offence face a maximum penalty of RM100,000 and two years' jail for the first offence and a maximum fine of RM300,000 and three-year imprisonment for each subsequent offence.

Prohibitions were also extended to the sale of tobacco substitute products and smoking devices to the same age group.

Under sections 13(4) and 14(4), individuals born on Jan 1, 2007 onwards found guilty of buying any tobacco products, substitutes, or devices face a fine of up to RM500 and can be ordered to undergo community service in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code and Child Act 2001.

It was reported that the 2023 version of the bill incorporates amendments suggested by the PSSC last year, including a reduction in the maximum fine for GEG offenders from RM5,000 to RM500, and introduces a provision for community service as a way to educate and raise awareness.

It also incorporates the PSSC's recommendation for the removal of the offence of personal possession of tobacco or vape products by the GEG group.

This also removes the need for body search by law enforcement authorities.

The new bill will also limit the authorities' enforcement powers to manufacturing, packaging, storage, delivery, distribution or sale of tobacco products.

The first version of the bill, then named "The Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022", was first tabled in Parliament in July last year.

It has been reported that cigarette smoking will cost the government RM8 billion for the treatment of lung cancer, heart problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by 2030.

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