Materia Medica Malaysiana

August 26, 2003


Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:12 am

Treaty a way to seek redress

KUALA LUMPUR: Aggrieved Malaysians stricken with smoking-induced health problems can sue the tobacco industry after the Government ratifies the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control next year.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng, who is scheduled to sign the treaty on behalf of the Government in New York next month, said the move was reflective of Malaysia’s commitment to combat the menace and the tragedies caused by tobacco products.

“Enough is enough,” Chua told a press conference at his ministry yesterday.

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng holding up cigarette packs with various messages.
“The tobacco industry must be prevented from causing so much damage, human misery and death.”

The treaty is an international legal instrument geared towards curbing the spread of tobacco and tobacco products worldwide.

A statement released revealed that between 10% and 12% of mortality in Malaysia was caused by diseases related to smoking over the past 20 years and that the overall adult smoking prevalence had increased from 21.5% to 28.8% from 1986 to 1996.

Chua said the Cabinet had decided recently that Malaysia would become a signatory to the treaty and that it would be ratified as soon as the necessary legislative requirements had been carried out.

In view of this, he said Malaysia would enact the Tobacco Control Act, which was being finalised by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, before ratifying the treaty that had already been signed by 47 countries.

However, only Norway has ratified the treaty, which required the endorsement of at least 40 nations before it could come into force.

“Once ratified by Malaysia, it would be applicable here and those affected by tobacco products could seek legal redress,” said Chua, adding that the treaty has a rider that holds the tobacco industry directly accountable for all the harm and damage caused as a result of using its products.

He said the Cabinet had also decided to create a secretariat and several national committees to oversee the way the treaty is carried out in Malaysia.

Chua said Malaysia has already taken some steps stipulated in the treaty such as making it compulsory for cigarette makers to carry rotating health warning messages with matching descriptors.

The cigarette packages would carry messages such as Cigarettes Are Heart Breakers, Cigarettes Hurt Babies and Cigarettes Leave You Breathless among others, which will be accompanied by matching pictures and illustrations.

When contacted National Cancer Council communications manager B. Raj Kumar, who heads the organisation’s anti-tobacco campaign, said Malaysia’s endorsement of the treaty and the impending legislation of the Tobacco Control Act were timely.

“Endorsing it will also protect the rights of passive smokers by allowing them to seek redress in the event they are afflicted by tobacco-induced diseases such as lung cancer because of their surroundings,” said Raj Kumar.

He said Malaysia currently lacked stringent measures and laws to protect non-smokers as well as children from tobacco smoke in public areas such as restaurants.

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