Tobacco tax hike proposed

By Cindi Loo

KUALA LUMPUR (June 18, 2013): The Health Ministry is mulling an increase in tobacco tax as part of an ongoing effort to implement better regulations to curb smoking habit in Malaysia.

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Its deputy director-general, Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman (pix), said the proposed tax increase is to exercise more stringent control on the tobacco industry.

“The issues highlighted that increased taxation on tobacco will cause cigarette prices to increase, thus leading to people buying contraband cigarettes have not been directly linked,” he said at a press conference today after participating in a roundtable discussion on tobacco control.

He cited a recent event where certain companies had increased cigarette prices on their own initiative and yet there was no outcry from smokers nor were there any events implying that smokers are opting for illegal cigarettes.

“Instead, increasing tobacco tax will allow funds to be channelled back to the government so that we can carry out more activities on eradicating this habit,” he said.
However, he said the Finance Ministry will be consulted on how to tackle this matter.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH) said the culture of smoking should be presented as an abnormal behaviour to children and youths to discourage them from picking up the habit.

“Most smokers started this addictive habit when they were minors as a result of an environment that also induced it,” said MyWATCH president Datuk Hatijah Ayob.

She also said the tobacco industry tries to attract new smokers by using corporate social responsibility efforts to sponsor events targeting youths and promote their cigarettes at the event.

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) director Bungon Ritthiphakdee also said cigarette packs should not be placed in display panels at convenience stores together with other snacks like candy.

“Children are attracted to colourful cigarette displays in grocery stores and we are concerned that tobacco policies in Malaysia would leave a loophole unless the government bans cigarette pack displays,” she said.

The two organisations produced a draft resolution to submit recommendations to the Health Ministry on ways to improve tobacco regulation.

These recommendations are:
» To fully implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control;
» To enact the Control of Tobacco Products Act within the next 12-24 months;
» To protect public policies from tobacco industry interference; and
» To strengthen collaborations between civil society, the academia and relevant government agencies.

(Article from the Sun: http://www.thesundaily.my/news/745786)