Do the right thing by voting for GEG, watchdog tells MPs

11 Jun 2023 05:45pm
Smoking and Tobacco Control Bill which is to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow (FILEPIC)
Smoking and Tobacco Control Bill which is to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow (FILEPIC)

SHAH ALAM - Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai has called on all MPs to put the health of all Malaysians first by supporting the Smoking and Tobacco Control Bill which will be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.

"The bill will be vital to reduce Malaysia’s high non-communicable disease (NCD) burden.

"NCDs are the main cause of death and disability among Malaysians, and a significant number of cases are caused by tobacco use.

"However, we now have the opportunity to take more meaningful preventive measures through the Smoking and Tobacco Control Bill," Dr Muruga said.

He said cigarette smoking causes numerous types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, while vaping can lead to E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) which is a fatal disease.

"Indeed, the way forward to reducing the prevalence of these health issues among Malaysians is through preventing addictions to smoking and vaping products from taking root, especially among our young.

"The main thrust of the bill is through its Generational End Game (GEG)," he added.

He said it should be noted that Malaysia’s National Strategic Plan on Tobacco Control 2015–2020 (NSPTC) has a medium-term target to reduce smoking prevalence to 15 percent by 2025 as well as an endgame target of less than 5 percent smoking prevalence by 2045.

"To achieve these targets, we will need a game changer like the GEG, and smoking prevalence among Malaysia’s adult population is currently at an alarming 21.3 per cent (NHMS 2019).

"The increasing number of vape users is also a growing cause for concern as the prevalence of e-cigarette users aged 15 years old and above was 4.9 per cent (NHMS 2019), however, we estimate the number to be much higher now as it is currently unregulated and widely available.

"Not only will the Smoking and Tobacco Control Bill save lives, but the country will also stand to save billions of ringgit in healthcare treatment costs, which instead can be used to further improve healthcare services and facilities for the people," he said.

He added that the annual healthcare cost of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer in Malaysia exceeds RM9.65 billion.

"Tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer, contributing to 22 per cent of cancer deaths, while the estimated cost to treat lung cancer due to smoking was RM132.7 million.

"It should also be noted that up to 34 per cent of heart attack patients are current smokers, according to the National Disease Database, 2018–2019 registry report.

"Besides, according to the 2022 Direct Healthcare Cost of Non-communicable Diseases in Malaysia" report, an estimated RM3.93 billion of the total RM9.65 billion in healthcare costs in 2017 was allocated to treating heart patients," he said.

He said MMA is pleased that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has recently stepped up its anti-smoking and anti-vaping campaigns on social media; however, the Health Minister will need to give it her all when she tables the bill for the first reading tomorrow.

"To all MPs, Malaysians are counting on you to put the health of the people first. Vote in support of the Smoking and Tobacco Control Bill, he expressed.

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