Revised GEG bill to see 13 sections amended [NSTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: The revised Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill, set to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, will include several amendments as the government shifts towards a "soft landing" approach through educational enforcement.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said amendments to the bill — dubbed the Generational End Game (GEG) Bill — would cover about 13 of its 58 sections, including those involving controversial compounds against underage offenders.

Dr Zaliha said there was a high chance of the bill being passed, as it needed only the support of a simple majority.

"We will table the bill for its second reading in the next parliamentary session on Oct 10.

"The Health Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC), chaired by Kuala Selangor member of parliament Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, will table its suggestions for the amendments.

"This will include amendments to the compound, as it was suggested that we focus on educational enforcement," she said, adding that the debate was scheduled to continue for two days.

Dr Zaliha said educational enforcement included sending minors for counselling and to smoking cessation clinics instead of punitive action.

She said the bill was necessary to control and prevent people from suffering from e-cigarette- or vaping-use-associated lung injury (Evali) as it would cost the government RM150,000 to treat one Evali patient for 12 days.

"The ministry has spent about RM6.2 billion to treat patients with smoking-related diseases in 2022. We are projecting that it could go up to RM8.7 billion (by 2030).

"In a study on the impact of tobacco use on health and work productivity in Malaysia published in 2018 in the Journal of Tobacco Control, smoking was estimated to incur RM275.3  billion in productivity loss."

On the backlash from retailers, she said public health remained a top priority.

To ensure that the bill was passed, Dr Zaliha said the ministry had held engagement sessions with members of parliament and stakeholders.

The ministry had referred the bill to the PSSC after it was tabled for its first reading this year.

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 to educate and raise awareness.

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

On another matter, Dr Zaliha said the ministry had held engagement sessions with the Finance Ministry on the 2024 Budget allocations, to which she said the Health Ministry would focus on improving primary care facilities.

She said the Health White Paper passed in Parliament in June would serve as the framework.

"We need to improve primary care facilities, such as clinics, as they are closer to communities."

She said this way, people could get treatment faster and easier, as well as prevent congestion in hospitals.

"This year, we have allocated RM100,000 to refurbish dilapidated clinics. We hope to also receive allocations to improve some 340 facilities, including dilapidated clinics, next year."

She hoped the ministry could also get allocations to expand the Madani Medical Scheme, which aims to benefit 700,000 households.

Under the scheme, eligible Rahmah Cash Aid recipients
can access free services like consultations, check-ups, medications, procedures and referrals as outlined in the specified package.

Currently, Madani Medical Scheme-registered clinics have logged about 4,000 patient visits.

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