Smoking threatens health fabric of society

THE Consumers Association of Penang welcomes Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s recent statement that the Government will fine those caught smoking or possessing illicit or illegal cigarettes in a bid to reduce demand for such cigarettes, leading to a halt of such smuggling and trading activities.

Illegal and contraband brands may cost as low as RM2 per 20 sticks pack, while duty-free cigarettes are smuggled by syndicates and sold illegally by errant retailers all over the country for between RM3.50 and RM4 for a pack of 20.

The rogue retailers not only sell smuggled cigarettes but also violate the Government’s mandated RM7 minimum cigarette price.

Malaysians reportedly smoke a “staggering nine billion sticks of illicit cigarettes each year”. Approximately four out of 10 cigarettes smoked in the country are illegal, costing the Government up to RM2bil revenue forgone in taxes.

We urge the Government to take a serious view of the smoking scourge that threatens individual citizens and the health fabric of society.

Concrete steps must be cemented in the Malaysian policy and rightly implemented to fight the growing problem of tobacco use.

  • Reduce demand and extend the ban on smoking to cover all public places including restaurants, bars, parks and recreation areas.
  • Introduce a licensing system that limits the number and location of outlets allowed to sell tobacco products. The licence should be subject to yearly renewal.
  • Step up the phasing-out of tobacco cultivation, and eventually make it illegal to grow tobacco.
  • Improve government funding for education, anti-smoking campaigns, and measures to help users to kick the smoking habit.
  • Prohibit linking of education, sports activities, scholarships to tobacco companies and products.
  • Curb the smoking scourge in the country through strong political will and execution of regulatory policies.
  • Ban publicity for tobacco products in any form.
  • Stop any subtle form of government support for tobacco products.
  • The media should increase coverage on the negative effects of tobacco to raise community awareness on the harm of smoking and to encourage smokers to quit the habit.

Tobacco is a major preventable cause of diseases, and loss of precious man-hours and premature deaths among the people of Malaysia. We call on the Government to put the interest of the people above industry interests.

source: thestar.com.my

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