Food outlets should stop cigarette retail business as food handlers — MCTC

17 May 2016

In reference to the report Malaysia and Singapore coffee shop owners hit back at Malaysia Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC)  on May 11 2016 in Malay Mail Online  we wish to reiterate that there were no studies to prove BAT’s claim that illegal cigarette trade increased due to the 40 per cent excise duties hike previously. This is an enforcement issue whereby the tobacco industry should be cooperating with the authorities. All form of tobacco products should be banned at temporary premises to prevent sale of illegal tobacco products.

World Bank’s 1999 report, Curbing the Epidemic, recommended total tax share of two-thirds to three-quarters. WHO Technical Manual on Tobacco Tax Administration (2011) recommends 70 per cent excise tax share.

In Asean countries Thailand imposes 70 per cent excise tax, Singapore 69 per cent Brunei 67 per cent, and yet the same tobacco industries continue their business with increasing profit there without threats or complaints. In Malaysia the tax portion of the cigarette retail price is only 49 per cent. All the above countries show marked reduction in smoking prevalence among their population and proves that price and taxation are effective measures in tobacco control.

The Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association (MSCSPGA) should acknowledge that their core business is the food industry and should manage their coffee shops as food outlets without having to rely on profits from tobacco products. In fact, coffee shops should not be allowed to sell any tobacco product at all.

MSCSPGA members should focus on providing safe and clean food in hygienic and healthy environment patronised by families with children. Many progressive food outlets have moved to concentrate on their core business using modern and healthy lifestyle concept without resorting to selling any tobacco product.

Food Hygiene Regulations 2009 imposes heavy responsibility on owners of food premises to ensure cleanliness and ventilation of the premise, safety of food and personal hygiene of food handler especially not to engage in any behaviour or action that could result in contamination of food. Smoking and handling tobacco products at the same time poses increased risk of food contamination.

Coffee shops typically being family run have few personnel handling different activities will be flouting Food Hygiene Regulations 2009 by selling tobacco products.

MCTC calls on the government to put a stop to coffee shops and food outlets selling tobacco products in accordance with Food Hygiene Regulations 2009.

MCTC also wishes to call on the government to ratify The Protocol On the Elimination of the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products to enhance cross-border enforcement against illicit trade in tobacco products.

* Media statement issued by Dr Molly Cheah, president of Malaysia Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) in Kuala Lumpur on May 17, 2016.