With teen smokers on the rise, Health Ministry seeks to ban cigarette counters

BY LOH FOON FONG

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is drafting a new anti-tobacco law that will sweep away cigarette displays now seen behind cashier counters.

It will also target the advertisements of lifestyle products that are related to cigarette companies.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Helmi Yahaya said the drastic action was necessary because thousands of hardcore smokers in the country have been unable to kick the habit despite the Government’s efforts so far.

Special clinics set up to help have not been successful with most of the 5,000 hardcore smokers who found it hard to quit because tobacco use was still being promoted in the environment, he said.

“What we need to do now is impose a point-of-sale display ban,” he said at the Break Free from Smoke, a Healthier Mouth, a Healthier You event.

Drafting the new law would take some time, according to him, and he could not say when the draft would be ready.
Malaysia has 3.1 million smokers and 0.2% were hardcore.

While the hardcore smokers had difficulties beating the addiction, Dr Hilmi said, more than 100,000 social or light smokers were able to quit each year.

However, it was worrying that as many as 45 to 50 teenagers below the age of 18 were picking up the habit each day, according to data from the Ministry.

As many as 30% of boys aged 12 to 18 smoked while the number of teen females who smoked increased from 4% in 2000 to 8% in 2004. Data that was more recent was unavailable.

Tobacco was still the top public health problem worldwide and the main risk factor for various health morbidities. Smoking killed about 10,000 people every year.

Currently, tobacco control in the country was regulated under the Food Act 1983.

The Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 was issued under the Food Act and regulates, among other things, smoke-free environments; tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and tobacco packaging and labeling.

The 2004 Regulations were amended by the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2008, the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2009, and the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2010.

Malaysia is a signatory to the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control which aimed to reduce tobacco prevalence worldwide.

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