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Give new push to ban on smoking
Prof Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
New Sunday Times, October 3, 2004
THERE is no better way to mark last week’s one-year anniversary of Malaysia signing the World Health Framework Convention on Tobacco Control other than to announce the immediate gazetting and banning of advertisements and sponsorship of tobacco products under the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 (Food Act 1983).
The ban encompasses advertising of cigarettes and their related branded products even at point of sale, including in coffee shops, stores and supermarkets.
Indeed, according to the South East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance “ restaurants, shop and other places frequented by the public are being targeted by the tobacco companies”.
Kudos to the Ministry of Health for being brave enough to once again put its money where the mouth is, especially after Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself admitted that “ the smoking rate in Malaysia continued to rise with more teenagers picking up the habit”.
He also said that Malaysia lagged behind developed countries in curbing the deadly habit. Reportedly, almost half of the male population in this country smoked, with the female population trailing behind, resulting in some 10,000 deaths annually.
Najib called on members of the Dewan Rakyat to kick the habit when the launched in Parliament the Nafas Baru ( Fresh Breath ) anti-smoking drive held in conjunction with the coming fasting month.
It is interesting to note that more than a decade ago, the first Nafas Baru club was set in a secondary school in Penang under the auspices of National Poison Centre based in Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Today, the idea has spread to many other schools in the country with an encouraging rate of students quitting the habit. Taking the lead from students, it is time that MPs followed suit as exemplary leaders, with a Nafas Baru club of their own. More so since some MPs, instead of supporting the Government, saw it fit to criticize the tax increase on tobacco.
One point that must be quickly resolved is the growing of tobacco in a big way in some States. It is difficult to reconcile why tobacco continues to be cultivated as an income-earner, as though it is part of the Government’s policy to promote the agro-based industry, while at the same time being hard on those who smoked.
More confusing is that a number of attempts made to substitute tobacco with other plans, has unfortunately not been whole-heartedly supported by the Government. So it is time that such initiatives be given a new push, not only as a long-term strategy to rid tobacco-related activities but also as a response to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s call to expand the agro-based sector in a health way.
The writer is the vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia. He can be reached at email@example.com
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