Cheap cigarettes hindering health agenda

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 19, 2013) Cheaper illegal cigarettes are hindering the government’s health agenda of encouraging people to stop smoking.

The Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM) chief executive Shahrul Abdullah said many of these illegal brands are sold at relatively low prices, far below the limits set by the government.

He said these cigarettes are easily available and is appealing to schoolchildren who can afford them.

«Schoolchildren are able to buy these illegal cigarettes for about RM3 per pack which is far below the tax threshold of RM4.80 set by the government,» he added.

Shahrul said the Illegal Cigarettes Study (ICS) commissioned by CMTM and conducted this year between March to May, showed that even though the number of smuggled illegal cigarettes has declined from 2009 to this year, sales of local illegal brands have increased since the beginning of 2011.

«The top five illegal brands are Gudang Garam, John, Canyon, Era and League. The survey revealed that local illegal brands have increased to a total of 6.2% within a period of three years,» said Shahrul

He believed that the illegal brands sold could even be more hazardous due to the lack of regulations that were being followed.

On clamping down on sales of illegal cigarettes, Shahrul said a holistic approach was needed.

«We need to look at better enforcement and making penalties more severe for starters,» he said, adding smugglers will continue to be involved in the illegal trade as it was lucrative for them.

The ICS was carried out for a period of three months between March and May this year with a sample size of 44,000 consumed cigarette packets.

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