YES, yes, count me in – in the call by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) for the Malaysian parliamentarians to pass the Control of Smoking Product for Public Health Bill into law, even without having read the details of the Bill itself.
Normally, I would get a copy of any Bill before its presentation to the legislature, digest its aims and consider consequences of its application and implications to the wider society before commenting on it in public.
This one is different.
The Bill proposes that children, born from Jan 1, 2007 and subsequent years are to be prohibited from smoking, buying or possessing any type of smoking product, including electronic cigarettes or vape products.
It is obviously aimed at protecting the health of the younger generation of Malaysians. By implication, it does seem that nothing much can be done about discouraging the category of older smokers from vaping away and smoking cigarettes with all the risks to health, and to the economy of the country in terms of government expenditure on healthcare.
According to the MMA: “There is more than enough scientific evidence showing the damage to health by smoking and vaping. Cigarette causes numerous types of cancers, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which include emphysema and chronic bronchitis, while vaping can lead to e-cigarette or vaping product associated lung injury (Evali).”
Seeing is believing
I am no scientist, but I have seen evidence showing destruction to the human lungs.
I used to live at Mile 6 of Kuching-Serian Road. My neighbours were practising Christians of the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA).
One day, I wandered into their compound, curious about the muted voices at one corner of their house. I was invited to join the ‘fun’.
A film show! And what a show it was. Pictures of human lungs enveloped by black stuff! It was the result of too much and prolonged cigarette smoking, said the commentator.
On reflection, I thought to myself that no wonder those members of the SDA whom I used to know had never complained about chest pains or had problems with their tonsils.
I must admit that I did smoke pipes during the university days in the 1960s – during social gatherings, every student was puffing away to keep warm during winter months. And to impress the girls!
I was never addicted to cigarette smoking, but I had a problem with my tonsil. I consulted a doctor. To save my life, he said that he would have my tonsil cauterised if I did not stop smoking, and warned that if that happened, I would lose my original voice and singing would be affected.
Not that singing was ever my forte!
I opted to stop smoking, and I have not had any more tonsillitis.
On reflection, it was the film shown by the SDA Mission that had the tremendous influence on me that I quit smoking altogether.
Back to the Bill. The Bill would have been tabled in Parliament last year had the government not changed hands. Now that we have a new government in place, there is no reason why the law to control a menace to the health of the people cannot be enacted as soon as possible.
Whoever forms the government of this country, it has the responsibility to regulate behaviour of people in terms of reducing smoking, vaping or electronic or cigarette smoking.
Apparently, there is a misconception among the smokers that electronic smoking is not as dangerous as the usual tobacco consumption.
Not true, say the medical scientists.
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), the number of cigarette users among the teenagers in this country increased by 14.9 per cent to 307,109 last year compared to 9.8 per cent, or 211,084, in 2017.
Of the total, 242, 849 users were teenage boys, while 64, 260 were teenage girls (The Borneo Post – June 1, 2023).
The Health Ministry, in a statement quoted by the Malay Mail of June 6, 2023, said of the two million school students screened, it was discovered that some 43,000 of secondary school students were smoking cigarettes.
The smoking problem is nothing new. Curb the production of tobacco and importation of tobacco products, the smokers would switch on to something else as a source of nicotine that causes the addiction.
The law to be passed would cover this loophole.
The vape, at one stage, was thought to be an alternative or substitute to tobacco smoking. The necessity of a law to control vape smoking indicates that in the past, there was inadequate monitoring of the problem of vaping and electronic smoking.
A bit late to handle, but the need for a stringent application of the law is crucial.
Law is not enough; it punishes the culprit, but there is something else that is equally important.
The campaign for no smoking must be continuous. I suggest that people from SDA Church be brought on board for their experience in dealing with the habit of smoking.
We are regulating a problem that is almost out of control. What are the measures that should be taken other than enacting a law?
Poster competitions – this has been tried, and who reads those posters? The young people are engrossed in their handphones that they have no time to read the posters.
Use the handphones to reach them by showing those pictures of the damaged lungs that I once saw.
See the difference. This could be one of the ways that may possibly discourage people from smoking cigarettes and vaping.
Try this method out.