Death Related to Nicotine Abuse Calls For Urgent Implementation of Control of Smoking Bill!
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - Bacalah Malaysia
May 15, 2023
June 12 has come down as the worst in the history of public health in this country and even beyond. This is evident when the Bill on the Control of Smoking (dubbed GEG bill) is reportedly referred to the parliamentary special committee (PSSC) yet again.
It caused much disappointment to many who have been patiently suffering from multiple postponement of Bill since the end of last year! And followed by many false promises, with the June 12 being the latest.
Many took the latter with great hope, and was prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the Minister of Health – who by now has shown her true colour as a “pro-vape” industry person, like several others before who were “pro-tobacco” industry, but with one major difference.
Unlike the predecessors, she has no qualms to forsake the lives of thousands, perhaps more, of innocent young adolescents below 18 years old when she infamously bulldozed the delisting of nicotine from the Poisons Listing on April 1.
She stood like sore-thumb being undemocratic, unethical – and unlslamic too for a Muslim minister who subject the rakyat to a well established harm associated with a highly addictive substance like nicotine. Especially when she is privy to so much professional advice covering the entire length and breath of the beloved country.
Consequently, the future hangs by a thin thread, where billions of youngsters are deliberately targeted to be potential addicts – adding on to the millions who were already caught in an intractable web decades ago.
The World Health Organization labelled the move as a “trap.” It warned Malaysia explicitly not to fall into it, but the power that be has a different attitude that contrasted the world body. It, therefore, raises many questions on compassion and accountability to which most medical and health fraternity worldwide are mindful of.
Ours seems to be an outlier and arrogantly so at the same time. The rakyat have been sidelined and pushed to a corner where they must now fight to regain their rights to “first do no harm” – a universal principle for the protection and advocacy of public healthcare globally. Malaysians deserve more.
Despite all these and several distractions attributed largely to the Health Minister, and given the growing evidence of nicotine effects on children – the latest involving a 2-year old toddler in Bera, Pahang, the PSSC proves to be yet sidestep.
Like the Consumers’ Association of Penang, many “did not understand why the Bill was referred to the PSSC without any debate.”
So too parents and teachers who are expressly disappointed “because they (wrongly) believe that the ministry will take some healthy measures to overcome the nicotine-based liquids.” Instead, schools are now facing a chaotic prospect due to the delay in taking concrete decisions on the issue.
This is in stark contrast to the claim made by the Health Minister last week, namely “the ‘improved’ bill was drafted following numerous engagement sessions with stakeholders, including tobacco industry players!”
The reality is, a 16-year-old girl has died – allegedly the first, suspected due to complications of vaping in a probable EVALI (Electronic Vape Associated Lung Injury) case.
Ironically, this came from the Health Minister at the Parliaments’ Special Chamber on the fateful June 12 without much remorse. The victim reportedly have no history of pre-existing conditions.
“A history of vaping and changes in the chest X-ray and scientific evidence that shows a link between vape and the risk of heart problems, medical experts also diagnosed this disease as a probable EVALI case” known to be linked with vape.
It seems that the last vape products that the deceased was identified as using were closed-system devices with flavoured vape liquids with nicotine up to 28mg/ml (about 3 per cent nicotine), based on samples of the e-liquids tested in the lab. One of the vape products that was named typically offers 50mg/ml nicotine (about 5 per cent nicotine).
The gruesome question then – how many more loss of lives and sufferings does it take before control is immediately reasserted by putting nicotine back into the Poisons List for as long as the GEG Bill is still ineffective!
Indeed, the Health Minister was spot on when she admitted that the death underscored the importance for “everyone to play their role, especially parents and guardians”. What is conveniently omitted is that it must begin with the Health Minister, the Deputies, and of course the Cabinet members.
Just because cases of abuse could be traced prior to the April 1 delisting of nicotine, it does not gives anyone the right to delist any forms of dangerous drugs without effective alternate protection which is expected of the GEG Bill.
Right now, it is as good as liberalising all the listed dangerous drugs for sale at the pasar malam, knowing full well that there will always be lapses of enforcement in the (losing) war against the country’s foremost enemy declared more than 50 years ago.
More dubious still is to levy taxes and excise duties on them to desperately generate the needed revenue as argued for in the case of nicotine delisting!
Islamically, speaking this act amounts to the violation of the belief that prohibits illegal income from substances that is clearly detrimental (haram) to health and more so to cause death.
This is indeed the case in the making of a civilised government where life prevails over any life-threatening decisions come what may. For sure, all good meaning Malaysians will find it next to impossible to reconcile with the latest national slogan – “degulai dejelei” that Prime Minister insisted on promoting of late.
It cannot but to backfire against the “uncivilised” act of poisoning the milieu that has claimed its the first victim in a tragic and unwarranted underaged death involving nicotine in vape! The civilised recourse is to stop the nicotine-cide at once! – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY
- The writer is the Rector of International Islamic University Malaysia