Big negation for prohibition laws with poor enforcement

Big negation for prohibition laws with poor enforcement

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 FEBRUARY 2022 – As the Ministry of Health announced its plans to introduce prohibition type laws to ban smoking and vaping to those born after 2005, a well-published legal columnist today warned that Malaysia’s poor track record in enforcing laws and regulations of this nature might lead to a counter-productive outcome to the Ministry’s good intention.  

According to R. Paneir Selvam, who is also the Principal Consultant of a home-grown Think Tank, Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian Government is currently unable to enforce laws that prevent people from smoking in eateries or even in designated “No Smoking” areas.

“People are still puffing away in places where they should not, knowing that the chances of any action taken against them will be very low or none at all. Yes, the authorities do at times make a show out of checking and summoning lawbreakers, but this is few and far between,” he says. 

In addition to flaunting the smoking ban in eateries, Paneir also says that the lack of enforcement against the illegal cigarettes trade is the critical barrier in implementing a blanket ban for cigarettes and smoking to the next generation. “There are several laws and regulations already in existence that can be used to stop criminal syndicates from carrying out smuggling activities. In fact, the Government could deploy even more powerful laws like AMLA, POCA and SOSMA to counter this multi-billion organised crime.


“Today, due to the lack of enforcement, illegal cigarettes trade remain a significant drain on the government’s coffers while causing uncountable socio-economic damage within our communities,” Paneir adds. 

Based on analysis by the Arunachala think-tank, Malaysia’s poor track record on enforcing its laws can be attributed to the lack of motivation by enforcement agency personnel who may believe some offences to be ‘victimless’; shortage of personnel and resources; absence of proper training and remuneration structure; and insufficient inter-Ministry and inter-agency support. 

“While the Minister of Health, Khairy Jamaluddin, is confident MOH can implement a variety of measures to enforce prohibition laws in Malaysia, history has shown that enforcement personnel, criminal syndicates and even the public will collude to create pathways to circumvent these measures, ultimately contravening MOH’s ideals for a healthier society,” Paneir states. 

Paneir proposed that the Malaysian Government should not consider prohibition type laws at this juncture but invest its focus and resources in enforcing current laws that can comprehensively destroy the illegal cigarettes trade.

“Through better remuneration, training and resources, we are confident that law enforcement personnel can better deter Malaysians from smoking where they shouldn’t be while making it harder for people to get hold of cheaper, contraband cigarettes that are sold without adhering to any form of regulations. 

The enhanced enforcement of current laws in itself should be able to bring down smoking prevalence in Malaysia significantly without over-burdening the law enforcement and justice system with smoking prohibition,” Paneir concludes.