18 September 2017:
WE would like to respond to the letters “Tobacco is bad but industry creates jobs” and “Stop calling it kiddie pack” (The Star, Sept 14).
While we sympathise with Retrenched Worker who claims he lost his job due to declining sales in the tobacco industry, we can’t help but notice he contradicts himself by quoting Health Ministry figures that pointed out;
- the number of smokers is increasing;
- the number of youth smokers is increasing; and
- the average number of cigarettes smoked is increasing.
We do not quite understand how, despite the worsening smoking habit in our population, the industry can claim that it is experiencing loss in sales and retrenching people. In our opinion, there are some things that your bosses are not telling you. Research elsewhere shows that jobs lost in tobacco manufacturing are not due to government-mandated health campaigns or decrease in the number of smokers but to automation in the industry and moving of businesses to cheaper locations and labour costs.
In our opinion, the workers who are being laid off should not have a problem finding other jobs as the industry does not require skilled workers. There are many similar job skills needed in other manufacturing industries that are being carried out currently by migrant workers. While Retrenched Worker is deeply concerned for several of his colleagues who are being laid off by the tobacco industry, possibly for their own financial gains, our main concern should be the health and wellbeing of the estimated 32 million people who live in the country, especially our young ones.
The industry often cites economic gains from tobacco excise taxes that the country collects. However, in 2017 alone, it is estimated that we will be spending RM5.54bil on three tobacco-related diseases and their complications. That’s just economic losses calculated for three diseases alone. We can think of many more.
The other writer says we should not call it “kiddie packs”. Why shouldn’t we? It is exactly that – cigarettes re-packaged in smaller numbers that makes it more affordable and more appealing to the younger ones. The packaging of the “kiddie packs” is also dangerously similar to the sizing of those illicit cigarettes which, the industry claims, are flooding the market.
Asean countries have already unanimously agreed to curb cigarette smoking among youth by opposing the “kiddie packs”, which is in line with Article 16 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Sales to Minor – “Each party shall endeavour to prohibit the sales of cigarettes individually or in a small packets which increase the affordability of such products to minors.” Reintroducing kiddie packs will only mean, as a nation, we are going one step backwards.
Let us safeguard our future generation by preventing our young ones from taking that first step down the slippery slope of addiction to cigarette smoking.
DR NURHALIZA ZAKARIAH
DR CHRISTOPHER EUGENE
DR ARUNAH CHANDRAN
The Association of Leaders and Advocators of Non-Communicable Disease Malaysia (LeAd-NCD)