In an effort to promote healthy lifestyle, the Health Ministry in Malaysia is reportedly drafting a new tobacco bill to fight against smoking.
According to local daily New Straits Times (NST), the new bill includes a request to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and a ban on displaying displaying tobacco products. The bill drafted also includes a ban on smoking in vehicles with a minor/minors inside.
An unnamed ministry official told NST that “tougher measures would be proposed in the bill” to help regulate tobacco use among Malaysians, especially the younger generation.
The ministry has, in fact, been lobbying for a tobacco act since 2005, when Malaysia became a party to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention for Tobacco Control on Dec 15, 2005.
“A draft of the tobacco act has actually been prepared since 2009. Unfortunately, it was not tabled in Parliament due to some circumstances,” the official said, adding that the ministry already renewed its efforts to table the bill last year.
In addition to the report, the official stated that smoking among the younger generation was a growing concern as most teenagers and youths start smoking before the age of 21.
She said that some Malaysian children have tried or even started smoking before the age of 13, according to a study conducted by the National Poison Centre and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. The English daily further supported her statement by citing that the Global School-Based Student Health Survey 2012 in Malaysia showed that 71% of teenagers who smoke had tried a cigarette before the age of 14.
However, without citing any report to support the statement, the official said, “Increasing the age of sale to 21 will reduce tobacco use among teens and youths, at a time when nearly all of them begin their smoking habit.”
According to a research, more than 90% of adult smokers began smoking in their teens or younger. After speaking with some medical practitioners, NST learnt that those who started smoking at a young age will most likely to continue as adults. They eventually become the heaviest tobacco users. With the bill drafted, the Health Ministry hopes that it’ll prevent the numbers of teen smoking will drop.
“Generally, it is the willpower and proper treatment of addiction that lead smokers to quit,” she said, adding that young smokes should seek advice from school counsellors or medical professionals. She added, “Once you are in the last stage of quitting, keep away from smokers. Learn to say “no” to any offer of cigarettes from friends.”
Malaysia isn’t the first country to have proposed to set the legal smoking age at 21. Kuwait, Honduras and Sri Lanka are among the countries that have made it illegal to sell or give tobacco products to anyone below age 21. However, it is unclear whether it has helped reduce the number of teenage smokers. It was also reported that Hawaii would become the first state in the US to raise its smoking age to 21 next year due to the increase of high school students becoming addicted to nicotine.
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