MAYC should be collaborating with Health Ministry to present a report on the
health and economic costs and consequences of smoking for Malaysia instead
of indirectly encouraging smoking among the adult population
Media Conference Statement (3)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The tie-up between the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs’ (MAYC) and two tobacco companies for a youth anti-smoking campaign is not just paradoxical, to quote the MAYC president Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, but positively scandalous and outrageous as it is as good as condoning and encouraging smoking among the adult population.
By collaborating with British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International Bhd under the “Youth Smoking Prevention” campaign, isn’t the MAYC condoning and encouraging smoking among adults while campaigning against smoking among youths?
Isn’t this totally against the spirit and substance of the annual World Health Organisation’s “World No Tobacco Day” campaign and the Malaysian government’s very own “Tak Nak” campaign which was launched by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in February this year?
There is a lot of confused thinking in the higher reaches of the government on the “no smoking” campaign.
When I was last in Parliament five years ago, Parliament was well on the way to a smoking-free environment, with the canteen already a smoke-free zone, thanks to the tireless campaign of the then Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Farid Ariffin. But when I returned to Parliament five years later, after RM80 million spent on its renovation, Parliament seems to have become smoke-full, especially the canteen whose atmosphere is heavily laden and contaminated with smoke and not very indistinguishable from a chimney.
The world has just celebrated the World Health Organisation’s “World No Tobacco Day” on May 31, but the Malaysian government does not seem to be very serious or committed to the programme despite launching a “Tak Nak” campaign by the Prime Minister in February.
On the occasion of the 2004 WHO “World No Tobacco Day”, Norway became the second nation in the world after Ireland to ban smoking in all public places, including all bars and restaurants to protect waiters, bartenders, cooks and other staff members from second-hand smoke, which is blamed as the cause of cancer and respiratory and heart diseases.
Norway did not regulate smoking until 1988, but it is already unthinkable to have to share an office or an elevator with a smoker or to light up on a train, a bus or a plane.
Ireland, which pioneered the ban on smoking, issued a report on “World No Tobacco Day” which showed that nearly all of Ireland’s workplaces were complying with the new law.
Is the government prepared to set a target for Malaysia to join Ireland and Norway to ban smoking and is MAYC prepared to support such a target?
WHO had raised the alarm over the growing toll from cigarette use in poor and developing countries .It said tobacco killed every six and a half seconds while many others succumb to disease caused by smoking. It reported that tobacco use claims five million lives a year and the number is expected to double over the next 25 years.
MAYC should be collaborating with the Health Ministry to present a report on the health and economic costs and consequences of smoking for Malaysia instead of indirectly encouraging smoking among the adult population.
The Health Ministry should present to the next Parliamentary meeting such a report on the health and economic costs and consequences of smoking in Malaysia as the basis for an effective public awareness campaign to cut down smoking in the country to both save lives and the astronomical healthcare costs to the nation, community and the individual.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman