Road to Gold, Wow ! What about the Race for Vapes?
Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - Bacalah Malaysia
June 19, 2023
I read with great interest the programme – Road to Gold (R2G) announced by the Minister of Youth and Sports in Kelantan, recently.
The noble idea is to secure a first-ever Olympic gold medal in Paris, next year.
No stone is left unturned in this effort since there are already experienced sportspersons who probably need just a little more push in some of their favourite events like cycling, diving and badminton! Never before have we been so near yet so far.
We must learn from our para-Olympians who have shown the way several times!
Of course, the R2G is also paved with substances and dopes of the lethal kind. Some are duped in the name of winning instead of “sporting” – a fine line that is often blurred in high pressure international competition.
So, R2G must be mindful in keeping sports healthy and clean. Very clean, including mind and soul. Indeed, a clean life, free from all forms of addictive activities ranging from doing drugs to being caught by the wonders of technologies that can be just as addictive too.
Like e-sports and online games including gambling that chalked up tragic incidents all along.
Of late, the local vaping scene has suddenly become an immediate concern beginning April 1 which could be dubbed as the Road to Nicotine (R2N), especially with respect to the use of liquid and gel vapes ( e-cigarettes).
In fact, the situation gave rise to the Race for Vapes (R4V), thanks to the gadget that resulted in the proliferation of nicotine abuse when the poison was taken out of the Poisons List by a unilateral, autocratic and unethical decision that officially ushered the mad rush. Mad, because thousands were reportedly involved within days of the deadly start.
Deadly, because of the first death involving a teenage girl as announced by the Minister of Health as a matter of fact.
Our attempt to reach the Minister of Youth and Sports for support much earlier through this portal have not been successful. Otherwise, we could have saved a life and many more miseries among our youth.
Now, instead we have “blood” on our hands, and “guilt” on our conscience that no amount of gold medals at the highest sporting events can bring comfort to the humane among us!
Not forgetting the youngest, a two-year old toddler in Bera, was also implicated earlier and hospitalised for critical care!
How about the countless others involved in the R4V pushed by unhealthy and dirty habits? It is just like R2G, except it is diametrically opposite where adolescents are ready to literally die for the country but on a tragic course.
Because Malaysia does not care. Up to now, no Minister is heard speaking passionately about the plight after almost three months to date. As testimony, the delayed tabling of the related Bill on the first day of the current Parliamentary sitting drew brickbats from almost all corners nationwide.
Worse, it is not unexpected due to the many prior postponements and false promises! So, what is left to do in order to urgently save the kids facing dire trust deficit?
The last recourse came when the Youth and Sports Minister reportedly indicated reviving the Rakan Muda (RM) agenda. Allegedly, as part of the efforts to empower the youths and teach community leadership skills.
RM was an ambitious multi-million youth empowerment programme that was launched some 20 years ago, in 1994, as part of Wawasan 2020 agenda. However, by 2000, it lost steam, and began to wind down followed by poor interest from the youth themselves, as well as the government, financially.
Thus, the hyped-up aim to develop strong youth equipped for the challenges of the 21st century got lost in translation, much like Wawasan 2020 itself.
Initially, the goal was for teenagers who wished to join RM be exposed to a myriad of activities from field sports, swimming or even body building to martial arts like silat, taekwondo and karate.
This is clearly well aligned with R2G, but not for those entangled with the R4V unless their problems are duly considered and dealt with accordingly. After all, RM was inherently designed to wean youth away from hazardous and harmful activities beyond just winning medals and trophies.
If this is the noble intents, then there can be some new hopes but if, and only if, the delisting of nicotine-vape is retracted so that the fight against R4V is more leveled and winnable.
It is worth noting that in 2015 the then sports minister also mooted to bring RM back but that never materialised.
Then, there was no R4V to compete against, indicating that the case today is more complex to navigate given that R2N is much alive and kicking.
Unless, it is eliminated, chances are RM would be inundated with nicotine, and shrouded by the fumes from the underaged vape users who are legally protected to do so since April 1.
Otherwise, we may be counting gold medals, at the same time busy burying our dead too. Perhaps more frequently so than the former.
It is, therefore, no wonder why the Minister(s) has been on the quiet side trying to “ignore” the life and death mess that was created, now staring at them. – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY
- The writer is the recipient of the 2023 Tobacco Control Award.