GEG: Enforcement will backfire, warns Tian Chua as stakeholders decry lack of consultation

06 Jun 2023 04:16pm
Tian Chua expressed his concern that the bill will give enforcement agencies the power to abuse young victims.
Tian Chua expressed his concern that the bill will give enforcement agencies the power to abuse young victims.

SHAH ALAM - The controversial Generation End Game (GEG) ban is expected to be debated in Parliament this week but the coffee shop association and sundry outlet traders are up in arms over the move, stating that they were not consulted.

Many of them are shocked because those who are currently in the government were once against the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill (GEG Bill), a bill tabled by the former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

The MPs from DAP and PKR had previously argued that it would not effectively curb smoking among those born after 2007 and will drive youths underground to smoke in private.

Former Batu MP Tian Chua hopes that the government will not take the easy way out when it comes to curbing smoking. He said the devil is in the details, especially in terms of enforcement.

"Even if we set aside constitutional rights, the main thing is the implementation. We need to understand the implications as the endgame will push youths underground. It will become chaotic as how do you distinguish the 18 from 21," he said.

Tian Chua further expressed his concern that the bill will give enforcement agencies the power to abuse young victims.

"Youths are rebellious in nature and they will go against such rulings. It will have an opposite impact. They may see going rebellious as a heroic act," he said.

While the bill aims to create a healthy next generation, Tian Chua warned that it may cause resentment among youths towards the government.
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He suggested that the government should reconsider the law and explore alternative means to deter smoking and promote a healthy lifestyle.

"We have to think harder. The endgame sounds noble but I am skeptical," he said, adding that the government's previous move to increase sin tax resulted in an increase in contraband activities.

Due to this, Tian Chua said that the government should stop looking at "simplistic ways" of promoting a healthy lifestyle.

"We should be investing in promoting a healthy lifestyle. But we are not working hard on this," he added.

"We are just wanting to give the whip to the police to regulate. This is a cheap escape. The impact will be the opposite as banning may not work within youths," he added.

Last year, MPs had voiced concerns over enforcement as they will have the power to possibly body check children and punish those born after 2007 for possession of a cigarette packet. They said it may be open to abuse.

Why were we not consulted, ask stakeholders?

The Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors’ General Association (MSCSPGA) and its 44 affiliates, representing around 20,000 coffee shop operators in Malaysia will hold a press conference today to express their opposition to the bill. They say they were not consulted on the bill or briefed on the implementation of the revised measures.

The Federation of Malaysian Retailers and Traders Association (FSGMAM) has also oppose the GEG as it would negatively impact the retail sector in the country.

President Hong Chee Meng criticised the lack of consultation, stating that it will affect retail operations and incur additional costs for adjustments.

The bill, which was tabled by Khairy in July and August last year, was delayed due to the dissolution of parliament in October 2022.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii reached a consensus on several major amendments to be included in the bill before its re-tabling before parliament was dissolved last year.

The amendments included the removal of a proposed clause making it an offence for those born after January 1, 2007, to possess cigarettes or related tobacco products.

Eyes are now on MPs who had opposed GEG, including Yii who has been appointed as the special adviser to Dr Zaliha on April 7.

Will the government take the easy way out to bulldoze through the bill without consultation with stakeholders and give the whip to enforcement?