KUALA LUMPUR: Several restaurant and sundry goods groups will write to the Prime Minister to allow their voices to be heard in the drafting of the generational endgame (GEG) law to reduce the number of smokers.
Calling for more thorough engagement with all stakeholders instead of rushing through its implementation, they say they are not against the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022.
However, they point out that there are practical concerns facing operators running a legitimate business.
Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors’ General Association president Wong Teu Hoon said the Parliament’s Special Select Committee (PSSC) for the GEG Bill should include the group for engagement and consultation.
“Many of our members rely on cigarette sales for some small earnings as everyone is still struggling to recover after two years of severe business disruptions.
“As legitimate cigarette sellers, our concerns and plights should be heard too.
“But until now, we have not been consulted and have not received any briefing on the implementation of the proposed measures as reported in the media,” he said in a press conference yesterday.
Wong said it was supportive of the Health Ministry’s agenda to reduce the number of smokers in the country.
“All we ask is to be heard and have our concerns considered,” he said, adding that a comprehensive consultation, briefing, and impact study should be carried out with retailers to improve the GEG Bill.
Echoing Wong’s call, Malaysian Indian Restaurants Owners Association secretary N. Shanmugam said cigarette sales made up about 30% of operators’ revenue, adding this was an important source of income as most operators were still recovering from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said his members were concerned about the implementation of such a Bill, as in who would be on the frontline to check and enforce it.
“Retail operators will be the ones expected to conduct the identity checks, which in turn will cause tension in the stores.
“Since the Bill does not allow those born after 2007 to work in shops that sell cigarettes, the operating costs for these small businesses will increase and cause many to go out of business.
“The GEG will impact the revenue of retail shops at a time when we are facing an unprecedented global recession,” he said.
Federation of Sundry Goods Merchants Association of Malaysia chairman Hong Chee Meng also highlighted the issue of worker shortages for many operators.
“The operators should not be targeted to double up as enforcers. We need more engagement with the relevant ministries and a platform to share our plight,” he said.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said many other aspects ought to be ironed out before the passing of the Bill.
Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia president Tan Sri TC Goh called on the government not to hurry but address the concerns raised by those to be affected.
“It (the Bill) could be inconvenient or even cause a fight between business owners and their customers, especially in traditional coffee shops and restaurants that don’t have the power to enforce the law, like asking their customers to show their ID cards to prove they are over 21.”
The Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022, which was tabled for first reading in Parliament by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on July 27, seeks to make it illegal for anyone born on or after Jan 1, 2007, to buy cigarettes and other tobacco and vaping products.
Currently, anyone who is 18 and above can buy such products.
The Bill is expected to be tabled again during the next Parliament sitting in October.