It is most disappointing that two weeks after the landmark US$368.5 billion (RM921.25 billion) settlement by the US tobacco industry to bear responsibility for smoking-related diseases as well as to eliminate youth smoking, there have been no local follow-up action whatsoever despite the assurance given by the Health Minister that the Health Ministry would look into the local implications immediately after the mass media reports about the US settlement.
Chua Jui Meng should give a report to Parliament as to what actions his Ministry has taken as a local follow-up to the landmark settlement by the US tobacco companies and why the Malaysian health authorities could not take a leaf from the the US example and require the local tobacco industry to bear responsibility for smoking-related diseases as well as to eliminate youth smoking.
The landmark settlement by the US tobacco industry to settle a wave of tobacco litigation and initiate tough anti-smoking programs over the next 25 years is historic because it is the first time that the US tobacco industry has conceded that the U.S. Federal Drug Administration can regulate nicotine as a drug and that smoking is addictive and causes cancer.
This is why the local tobacco industry should also be made responsible to contribute to the costs of health care in the country arising from smoking-related diseases, especially heart diseases and cancer, unless the Malaysian tobacco industry is to going to take a last-ditch stand and wage a fight which had already been given up by the US tobacco industry - in denying that smoking is addictive and the cause of many diseases, including heart and cancer-related ailments.
Chua Jui Meng should let the nation know whether he has presented to the Cabinet any proposal to work out a strategy to get the tobacco industry to make a substantial contribution to the costs of health care arising from smoking-related diseases as well as to reduce tobacco consumption and to ban all forms of direct or indirect tobacco advertising.
Malaysians must learn to benefit from the experiences of other countries. For instance, it has been confirmed that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing more than 400,000 deaths each year and resulting in an annual cost of more than US$50 billion in direct medical costs.
Each year in the United States, smoking kills more people than AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse, car crashes, murders, suicides, and fires--combined!
It has also been found that approximately 80% of adult smokers in the United States started smoking before the age of 18 and every day, nearly 3,000 young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers.
More than 5 million children living in the United States today will die prematurely because of a decision they will make as adolescents--the decision to smoke cigarettes.
Other findings in the United States concerning smoking should also be placed in the forefront of Malaysian consciousness, such as:
US Government studies have concluded that:
These are among the reasons why the Ministry of Health should follow the US precedent and get the local tobacco industry to bear financial responsibility for tobacco-related diseases and deaths.