‘Smokers stand to lose out on govt aid’ 29/12/2009

KUALA LUMPUR: “No smoking” may be made a condition for youths and students seeking aid from the government.Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the proposal was raised as many people, including youths and students, could still afford to buy cigarettes despite several price increases.

“They say they are poor. But if they can buy cigarettes, then we (may) say you are not qualified to receive any aid,” he said at a news conference after chairing a meeting of the National Youth Consultative Council and launching the Ekspedisi 1Belia 1Malaysia organised by the ministry with the cooperation of the Youth and Sports Council.

Ahmad Shabery was asked to comment on the announcement by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai yesterday that beginning Jan 1, the minimum price of cigarettes would be RM6.40 for a 20-stick pack or 32 sen for a stick.

The move is to make cigarettes less affordable, especially among the young and low-income group, besides curbing the promotion of cigarettes through discounts.

Ahmad Shabery said government aid, such as for those under the hardcore poor housing programme who can afford cable TV or cigarettes, also needed to be reconsidered although there is no law on this.

On the call that money from cigarette taxes be used to promote sports other than football, the minister said he would forward a proposal to the Finance Ministry.

On the Ekspedisi 1Belia 1Malaysia, Ahmad Shabery said it involves 70 participants who will travel through 10 states. The expedition, which ends on Saturday in Lenggong, Perak, aims to educate and provide accurate information about the “1Belia 1Malaysia” programme.

On the National Youth Consultative Council meeting, he said various views had been put forward on the economy, education and programmes that need to be implemented. — Bernama