Wednesday, November 30

Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill – voting for our children’s future well-being

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Photo for illustration purposes only. — Photo from MaxPixel

THE critical Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill is to be tabled in Parliament this week. It is one of the most critical Bills that will affect the health and social well-being of many generations of our children. It is vital that all members of parliament are fully aware of the issues and support this important Bill.

It is important to remember that the Bill does not limit smoking in adults but aims to stop the sale and use of cigarettes/vaping products in all children born from the year 2005 – those who will be 18 years of age in 2023.

Smoking is a fast-growing epidemic in our children.

The 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey provides us with comprehensive national data on smoking behaviour in teenagers. The data is alarming for children aged 15 to 19 years:

  • 11.6 per cent (303,800) were current cigarette smokers
  • 7.5 per cent (196,000) were vaping or using e-cigarettes
  • Overall, 15.6 per cent of all teenagers aged 15 to 19 were using a tobacco product.

It is expected that the number vaping would have gone up considerably in recent years from when that national survey was conducted. As paediatricians, we are aware of many younger children introduced to vaping tobacco products by means of attractive flavours/devices and the ‘look-cool’ appeal.

Teenagers can be easily seen, all over the country, vaping and puffing away. Many start as early as nine to 10 years of age and get hooked. It is well established that most smokers pick up the habit while they are teenagers; vaping only makes this addiction so much easier to acquire.

It is of concern that the National Tobacco and E-cigarette survey among Malaysian Adolescents (TECMA), as far back as 2016, showed that 9.1 per cent of Malaysian adolescents aged 10 to 19 were e-cigarette/vape users; this amounts to at least 600,000 children. Half of these children first started vaping before the age of 14.

Tobacco addiction is extremely difficult to get out of. Some progress on to using more addictive and harmful drugs.

We would appeal to our members of parliament to think about the health and well-being of all our children, today and future generations. Please vote in favour of the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill. The impact on combating a major source of social ill in our society, the long-term reduction in health problems/deaths, and the improved lifestyle for our children will be immeasurable.

A positive vote for this Bill is a positive vote for an investment in our children’s present and future health and well-being.

A positive vote for this Bill is a vote of hope for all the families whose children will no longer be trapped in smoking/vaping addiction.

A positive vote for this Bill is a vote that offers support to our health system to reduce a major disease burden.

Dato Dr Amar-Singh HSS – consultant paediatrician

Dr Selva Kumar – consultant paediatrician and Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) president

Dato Dr Musa Mohd Nordin – consultant paediatrician

Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail – consultant paediatrician

Dr Thiyagar Nadarajaw – consultant paediatrician and Malaysian Association for Adolescent Health (MAAH) vice-president