Malaysia bans small cigarette packets after tobacco giant threatens legal action over delay, 15/06/1

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia began enforcing a ban on small cigarette packets, the health minister said Monday, after a short-lived postponement of the move caused a tobacco company to threaten legal action.

The ban on the sale of packets containing fewer than 20 cigarettes took effect June 2, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said. The ministry announced last month it would be pushed back by six months until January next year.

 The government had planned the ban as part of efforts to curb smoking among young Malaysians who consider smaller cigarette packs more affordable.

The Cabinet decided in a meeting last week to uphold the ban following the “response from the public,” Liow said.

“We listen to all quarters,” Liow told The Associated Press. “The decision (to ban small packets) was made five years ago, and the manufacturing companies already complied. They are ready.”

Authorities previously said they feared the ban would spark a surge in demand for illegally produced cigarettes.

The planned delay sparked complaints by the Malaysian affiliate of Philip Morris International, which exhausted its inventory of small cigarette packets in anticipation that the ban would take effect June 1.

The tobacco giant warned it would consider measures including legal action to recover losses, and claimed the move would hurt foreign investor confidence in the government’s transparency.

On Monday, Philip Morris Malaysia’s spokesman Richard James said the firm has been notified the ban was back on. “We certainly appreciate the clarification and now can proceed with our business plan,” he said.

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