Don’t jail kids for smoking, urges PSC on proposed tobacco bill

KUALA LUMPUR: The Special Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Science and Innovation has urged the government to ease the punishment for teenagers caught smoking cigarettes.

They believe that while the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill, also known as the tobacco generational endgame (GEG) law, was a positive move, jail time for juvenile offenders was a step too far.

The Bill was tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Committee chairman Dr Kelvin Yii (Pakatan Harapan-Bandar Kuching) said the committee disagrees with the proposed criminal punishment for offences involving juveniles.

“The committee strongly recommends that the punishment imposed on juveniles does not involve imprisonment and that the offence is not recorded in any existing system.

“This means no criminalisation for our youth for possession,” he told reporters in parliament today.

Dr Yii said the committee has instead proposed that youth caught smoking or in possession of cigarettes be penalised in practical and positive ways.

This, he said, should include community service, mandatory counselling sessions and a reasonable fine which he said should follow a tier system for first-timers, with clear guidelines.

“We are also concerned over aspects of enforcement power in the bill itself, especially involving juveniles and even children.

“The power to inspect, possibly conduct body checks and punish a child for possession must be heavily controlled to prevent abuse.

“This is why the guidelines for enforcement must be very clear and specific on this to ensure the vulnerable, especially the poor, are not victimised by the law.”

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, during the tabling yesterday, said the law would apply to those born in 2007 onwards and not 2005 as initially proposed.

Dr Yii said that in principle, the select committee agreed to the bill tabled as it would protect the health of Malaysians.

However, he said the committee felt that there is room for improvement. It suggested that the government postpone the implementation of the GEG by three years.

“This means the GEG will affect individuals born after 2008.”

At the same time, the committee also proposed for the government to have separate regulations and Acts for non-combustible tobacco products, vape as well as combustible tobacco products.

Dr Yii said the committee also recommended for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) be easily accessible and sold openly over the counter.

NST

 

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