22 February 2017:
THE Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, is asking for stakeholders’ feedback on the best way to tighten enforcement against the illegal distribution of tobacco (“Stakeholder’s feedback on war against illegal tobacco trade, wanted” NST, Feb 17).
I am pleased that the ministry is seeking feedback in light of Malaysia’s commitment under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) to reduce tobacco use.
Effective implementation of the FCTC and curbing the illicit trade of cigarettes can be achieved through the licensing of retailers to sell cigarettes, recommended in both of these legal instruments.
According to the FCTC Article 13 Guidelines, licensing of tobacco retailers is an “effective method for controlling advertising, promotion and sponsorship”.
The Health Ministry’s Regulation on Control of Tobacco Products is consistent with the FCTC and which has banned advertising of tobacco at point-of-sale. However, this regulation is being violated by retailers who advertise through cigarette-branded display counters provided by tobacco companies.
If the retailers were licensed, then in such cases of non-compliance, the licence could be withdrawn. The tobacco industry claims that one out of every two packs of cigarettes sold in the country is illegal.
Obviously, retailer education not to sell contraband cigarettes is ineffective. Licensing of retailers is an efficient way to ensure that these contraband cigarettes don’t end up in smokers’ hands.
Singapore and Brunei charge US$280 (RM1,250) and US$240 for cigarette licences per year, respectively. Thailand charges a much lower rate, however, it has more than 500,000 retailers, compared with Malaysia’s 80,000.
The cost of the licence should be high enough for the retailers to take it seriously and not violate its terms.
I suggest a RM400 a year which is less than half of what retailers in Singapore and Brunei are paying. MARY ASSUNTA, Tobacco control advocate.