KUALA LUMPUR, 10 JUNE 2022 – The proposed plan by the Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia to ban the sales of cigarettes and vaping products to those born after 2005 will set a dangerous precedence that will impact the national economy and jobs, if this law is passed.
R. Paneir Selvam, a well-published legal columnist, said that the so-called poll conducted by the Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM) recently should be enough to set off a red flag against a bill of this nature.
The poll by PPIM was carried out in response to the government’s intention to outlaw smoking and vaping for future generations. The survey found that most respondents agreed that the ban should include other industries like alcohol, gambling, bars, nightclubs, karaoke places and sugary beverages.
Paneir, who is also the Principal Consultant of a home-grown Think Tank, Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn. Bhd. (ARRESCON), said, “Clearly, this generation end game creates a slippery slope for other similar forms of legislation that may curtail the operations of legitimate and tax-paying industries. The government is currently starting with cigarettes and vaping products. Where does it stop?”
“From a legal perspective, when it comes to enacting new laws and regulations such as the generation end game, it will set a precedent for the future and most likely certain special interest groups or opportunistic politicians and extremist groups will call for a ban of products and services that may be deemed contradictory to their social and moral philosophy,” he explained.
He said that the tobacco generation end game, as proposed by the MOH, is just a start to Malaysia’s march towards a nanny state. “This will have a widespread impact as industries like tobacco, alcohol, gambling, nightclubs and sugary drinks contribute billions in tax revenue to the government.“
Malaysia nanny state
A nanny state refers to a government or its policies being overprotective or, at times, interfering with personal choice. Such a government equates to a nanny’s role in child-rearing. The role of the state is to provide knowledge to its inhabitants for them to make the best decisions.
Paneir believes that it is important to give consumers the option to choose. “Nowadays, consumers are well-informed on the crucial facts that can influence their decision-making. They know what they want and what they will eat. Furthermore, it is their fundamental right under the Federal Constitution, as the State has no power to interfere with anyone’s personal decision or privacy in Malaysia.”
“Instead of coming up with counterproductive legislation, the government should focus on creating policies and laws that can help with job creation and economic growth as well as steers the country to attract foreign direct investments into the country. “
He urged the Government also to take the Sri Lankan government’s policy on organic farming, as well as our very own decision to raise the sugar price, as a stark reminder that well-meaning restrictions will do more harm than good.
In 2013, the Government decided to eliminate the sugar subsidy to encourage Malaysians to stay away from sugar as it is the leading cause of diabetes. However, this approach backfired, as the data above plainly shows that the number of diabetes patients in Malaysia is gradually increasing, despite rising sugar prices in recent years.
In April 2021, the Sri Lankan government enacted a policy prohibiting farmers from using synthetic fertiliser to raise crops on their farms to decrease spending and enhance foreign exchange while also addressing worries about the health implications of utilising chemicals in agricultural production. Domestic rice production declined dramatically in the first six months after Sri Lanka went organic.
The restriction also had a negative impact on the country’s principal export and source of foreign exchange; in February of this year, the government eventually terminated the programme for numerous significant products, including tea and coconut, due to violent protests, and surging inflation, and currency collapse.
“Therefore, Policymakers as well as the overall community must consider future repercussions before passing any restrictive laws like tobacco generation end game,” he adds.
“The state should strike a balance when enacting any restrictive rules so as to not create an environment for the illegal market. A good example is the alcohol ban in the US in the 1920s which resulted in the surge in the illegal alcohol trade coined as bootlegging.
For the record, as reported previously, Malaysia’s black/shadow economy accounts for more than RM 300 billion due to illegal trades, and the government should instead prioritise ways to address this rather than considering any restrictive regulations which will put further pressure on the system, ” Paneir concludes.