New measures to be introduced to tighten tobacco control

PETALING JAYA: A slew of reforms will be introduced to tighten tobacco control, including banning direct and indirect promotion of tobacco products and reducing the nicotine content in cigarettes by 2015.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the graphic health warnings on cigarette packets would also be replaced with new and bigger images which would take up half the front panel.

He said discounts on cigarette prices to customers would also be prohibited.

“We will also tighten our definition of no-smoking buildings. Smoking will be forbidden in all roofed areas, including covered walkways,” he told reporters after launching the World No Tobacco Day at Sunway Pyramid yesterday.

Subramaniam noted that tobacco companies were very innovative in using sales as an indirect promotion gimmick, including employing attractively-dressed girls to sell cigarettes.

“So it is an indirect attraction, but the intention is the (sale of) cigarettes. We want to differentiate between promotional intentions and sales intentions.”

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He said large cigarette displays in convenience stores, which served as indirect advertising, would also be an area the ministry will look into.

Subramaniam discouraged any party, including NGOs, from getting direct or indirect sponsorship from tobacco companies.

He said tobacco companies should not be allowed to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes as a tool to promote their brand.

“The sponsorship may be for a noble cause but we don’t agree with the source,” he said.

Subramaniam said the reduction in tar and nicotine content would be done in two phases in January 2014 and June 2015.

The current maximum allowable tar and nicotine content is 20mg and 1.5mg per cigarette respectively and will be dropped to 10mg and 1mg by 2015.

He said the ministry would make the necessary amendments to the Tobacco Control Rules and Regulation 2004, which is under the Food Act, and added that he hoped to have it gazetted by year end.

Subramaniam said he would also reopen negotiations with the Malaysian Council on Tobacco Control regarding the passing of a standalone bill on tobacco control.

Regarding the issue of cigarette smuggling, he said the ministry would work with the Customs Department and relevant agencies to tackle the problem collectively.

Malaysia’s 2011 Global Adult Tobacco Survey revealed that smoking prevalence amongst adults aged 15 and above were 23.1% or some 4.74 million people.

Malaysia is a party to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and is legally-bound to implement the articles in it. WHO’s representative to Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, Dr Graham Harrison, lauded the new measures as a further step to reduce the number of smokers and smoking-related fatalities in Malaysia

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