Parliament: Smoking issues

There were a couple of points about smoking and cigarettes that were brought up in Parliament today.

As usual, MP Titiwangsa (Dr Lo Lo) was hard against smoking. I didn’t really catch the beginning, but she was talking about how our sporting tournaments and others are being sponsored by tobacco companies, like Malboro and such, and how this should not happen. She mentioned that countries that are very advanced in sports have mengharamkan this kind of sponsorship, and it follows that there are no giant billboards advertising tobacco companies. Her example was Australia.

MP Parit Buntar (Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa) suggested that the National Fatwa Council do something about this. He said that although there is currently a fatwa against smoking, but because it is not gazetted, the people will continue smoking as they know they will not be caught. So he says that the NFC should come up with a fatwa, and gazette is as soon as possible.

MP Wangsa Maju (Wee Choo Keong) said that he has not seen any of the TV campaigns sending the message of the ills of smoking. I’m guessing that it’s the “Tak Nak” campaign that he’s talking about. He says that it has been quite a while since he’s seen those commercials (public service announcement would be more appropriate) on TV.

MP Parit Buntar goes on to say that it is actually not enough that we ‘tell’ the people not to smoke. The government has to be proactive in initiating langkah-langkah to curb the industry all together. He mentions that the cigarettes these days come in all sorts of ‘exotic’ flavours like strawberry, and these appeal to the younger generation (he said kanak-kanak) and womenfolk, and this should stop.

MP Jasin (Ahmad bin Hamzah) came into the picture pretty late, but he said he was speaking from his personal experience, that the issue with smoking is not about whether one can afford it, but about habit, tabiat. He says that those who are smoking the most are those who are fishermen and labourers.

He also argues that the tobacco industry brings pendapatan lumayan to the country, and states some statistics about how many packets of cigarettes are being sold daily, and all that. He was met with a lot of boos on this point

Then he also compares prices of cigarettes in Malaysia which are at RM9, to those sold in Singapore, which are at $13. So he says that in order to deter smokers, the price for cigarettes should be increased drastically. MP Titiwangsa stood up to agree “200%”.

*

I’ve heard stories from my friends about their friends. Boys/Men my age (20-ish) chain-smoking, but having not even more than RM10 in their wallets at any one time. So then how do they get the cigarettes? Well, they steal. Or shoplift, whichever term suits you better. At times, they manage to get so many packets out of the shops that they actually ‘distribute’ their spoils to other friends. So in a way, I agree that smoking is that of habit, not so much about affordability.

But for those who dare not do such things, raising the price of tobacco will be a great deterrent. That too, I agree. My dad started smoking from the legal age of 18, and has never looked back. Until the year he came to NZ, where cigarettes were expensive. Not only that, he couldn’t smoke just anywhere and everywhere, because there are strict laws about where one can light a cigarette. He found it too fussy to need to look for a place where he could smoke “in peace”, and so he quit, cold turkey. And that was after years of ‘resolving’ to quit.

MP Parit Buntar suggests that we start a new culture. We say najis dadah and najis rasuah, so why not start saying najis rokok as well.


2 Comments on “Parliament: Smoking issues”

  1. huichek says:

    Another issue worth debating…If I’m not mistaken the government has taken the step further ahead by revamping the cigarette packets..Pictures of various side effects of smoking(cancerous lungs,bad tooth etc etc.) will be put on the package..not sure how effective will it be, but considering those smokers who have been ignoring the messages thus far,it wouldn’t work, at least that is what I think..moving on to the suggestion to bring it to fatwa council..they have already have a lot of issues to deal with(tomboys, yoga etc), and seriously do they have the time to study another issue?furthermore I think fatwa only will affect muslims, so how about non-muslim?let them be??
    So from what I’ve come to know, there are goods and bads..the good is, it contributes to the country economy..the bad is, our people suffer..seriously I don’t think our country have to resort to such ‘income’ considering its downside..we, the non-smokers suffer from your smoke..smokers have become more inconsiderate..they do not feel for those who do not smoke, which is what I detest most..FYI, I have been living in hostel since I was in form 4, and I’ve never taken a liking for smokers..bash me as you wish, but cigarette butts can be seen everywhere on the floor once they finished smoking, and the smell is certainly unpleasant…one thing I give credit though, is how cigarette managed to reduce the foul stench of the toilet(since they always choose to smoke in the toilet)..haha..
    back to the issue,smoking has been tackled for so many years,campaigns, price rising etc etc., but none of them seem to have worked..so what is the problem really?
    I strongly agree with how other country address this problem…by (1)constricting smokers to certain areas(limited in space and distribution),this will surely deter them from smoking..to quit smoking is not really an easy task,since it will need a lot of self control and advice so (2) professional help is needed in this matter..most smokers intend to quit, but doing and saying it is totally different matter..have someone who knows the way help them..
    and further increasing the price won’t help much,like what you’ve said earlier, what if more of them resorted to shoplifting to fulfill their desire??wouldn’t it create more problem??
    this issue has been dragging very long, and unless the government is really serious about curbing it, it will prevail..considering now youngsters start smoking at younger age, the government really have to tackle this problem as soon as possible..
    done with my grouses..haha..

    next up : foul-mouthed politician! :p
    _______
    You’ve raised some good points. 🙂

  2. Gadfly says:

    Human beings tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This makes us vulnerable to addiction. Most of us are potential addicts. Addiction afflicts all levels of the social classes, not just the fishermen and the labourers, and men and women, and from the very young to the elderly. The tobacco industries are now targeting the non-conventional groups of the young and the women,by promoting milder forms of nicotine via unethical advertising campaigns.

    Malaysia is an addictive society, the addiction ranges from chemical dependence(alcohol,nicotine, prescription drugs to illegal drugs) to psychological addiction of compulsive gambling, shopping and religiosity.

    It is unfortunate that the issues on addiction are often distorted by interests of political parties instead of being seen as a national health issue.

    Addiction do have political implications in terms of allocation of resources for prevention,treatment and rehabilitation. After all the smoke of political quarrels about the banning and control of different forms of addiction has dissipated, what really will be done for the addicts? Will there be more treatment and rehabilitation centres(drugs, alcohol and gambling)?

    Would the mere control of advertising and raising of prices be adequate to tackle addiction? Has the fear and disgust method of discouraging smoking worked? Has the lessons of the ads of scaring people against getting HIV and AIDs backfired when it becomes an ad of stigmatisation? When the freedom of expression is stifled, national health issues of great concern to the citizens are also suppressed. Then all the debates about banning and control of alcohol, nicotine,drugs and gambling become petty political quarrels when the addicts are suffering and dying.

    While volunteering to do hospice work for terminal ill of AID patients, besides the central concern of death and dying, I came to know the power of addiction. One Chinese young man told me,” I stayed in a drug and rehad center for over half a year. We are asked to roll on the concrete basket ball field under the hot sun with only underpants on. When I returned to the city and worked in a Chinese restaurant, I met my hometown friend. It takes only a few puffs from him that I get into it again.”

    It is quite understandable of all the moral indictments against addicts of stealing money and causing harm to themselves and others. However, moral or religious jugdments are insufficient to tackle addiction.

    There is a sense of inner emptiness,unworthiness and meaninglessness that the addicts want to fill in. Like a crooked tree, they try to seek sunlight. But, growing in a crooked way is the only option that it knows of in that sort of environment.

    One drug addict when in prison told a retired Chinese policeman who did counseling: ” I am born with a strong body, a good hardware like a Mercedes sports car. But, I do not have the software to control this powerful car.” Is this mere rationalisation or other factors are also involved? When we understand all the contributing causes of addiction, we will be in a better position to tackle addiction.


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