Health ministry rubbishes talk of ‘kiddie pack’ cigarettes

23 August 2017:

Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam says legislation prohibits the sale of cigarettes in packs of fewer than 20 sticks.

PETALING JAYA: The health ministry has dismissed talk that smaller, 10-stick packets of cigarettes known as “kiddie packs” will be sold in the market.

Minister Dr S Subramaniam said the ministry would not give approval for the sale of such packets as the law prohibits the sale of cigarettes in packs of less than 20 sticks.

“The rumours of the ‘kiddie packs’ being sold are not true. The ministry has not endorsed it.

“Legislation prohibits the sale of small packs of cigarettes of fewer than 20 sticks. This is also consistent with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Malaysia is a part of,” he told FMT.

FCTC is a tobacco control treaty which Malaysia has been a part of since 2003.

Under the treaty, Malaysia is obliged in principle to establish stringent provisions for tobacco control by enacting domestic legal tools, enforcing laws and developing clear national policies that give priority to public health.

FCTC, the first international treaty initiated and adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO), set international standards for tobacco controls with provisions on advertising and sponsorship, tax and price increases, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.

Last year, the government had plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, but due to pressure from tobacco companies, the policy has yet to be enforced.

“The plain-packaging policy is not going to be permanently shelved. It is still under discussion and we may be implementing it,” Subramaniam said.

He also denied that tobacco companies in the country are the ones who determine government policy.

“They do not determine our policies. They are just pushing for things that they have interests in too,” he said.

Earlier today, Klang MP Charles Santiago had questioned the government’s efforts to reduce smoking among Malaysians.

In a statement several days ago, he had also mentioned talk that smaller, 10-stick packets would be sold to combat the sale of illegal cigarettes.

He said if these smaller packets eventually go on sale, it would demonstrate that tobacco lobbyists determine government policy, thereby bringing into question the sovereignty of policy-making in the country.

An anti-tobacco group meanwhile said the sale of “kiddie packs” would only encourage smoking, especially among adolescents.

Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) president Dr Molly Cheah told FMT that the nation could not put revenue ahead of public health, especially when it involves young people.

“There is enough evidence to show that selling cigarettes in smaller packs encourages smoking. This includes smoking among young children,” she said.

The health ministry estimates that 100,000 Malaysians die of smoke-related illnesses every year.