I-MEDIK is dismayed by the recent suggestion of the Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association to re-introduce smaller pack cigarettes, or what have been universally termed “kiddie packs” back in the market.
The suggestion is made on the notion that it will curb the sale of illegal cigarettes that have been flooding the market. First of all, the illegal trade will always find ways to offer cheaper packaging to compete with legal products and to sway buyers to their direction.
What is needed is tougher enforcement and strong political will to stop illegal sales and smuggling. Illegal trades thrive on the demands of the market, so the right thing to do is to educate society on the health and economic impact on of smoking habit.
Secondly, it is preposterous to legalise illegal substances simply to boost tax revenues, as the costs of treating illnesses resulting from cigarettes smoking is much higher than the sales revenue.
According to the healthcare projection studies of Al Junaid et al and the Seatca EATCA report in 2007, the cost of treatment for tobacco related illnesses, namely ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is RM5.54 billion in 2017, compared with the loss of revenue from the sale of illicit cigarette, which stands at RM1 billion.
With the escalating health costs in years to come, these figures are likely to be increased in the future if we implement wrong measures such as legalising the kiddie pack.
The notion that “illegal cigarettes are even more harmful to health than legal cigarettes” is baseless. Your lung cells do not differentiate between cigarettes obtained legally or otherwise.
Furthermore, the Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents last year have shown that as many as 14.2% of those in the age range of 10 to 18 years smoke, with the majority 94.3% smoking 10 cigarettes per day, and 71.6% being able to afford to buy a RM9 pack a day.
Clearly, the sellers of individual cigarettes or the smaller packs are targeting the youth by increasing the affordability of such packaging.
It is for the above reasons that I-Medik condemns the irresponsible suggestion of the Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association to re-introduce the kiddie pack, which was banned in Malaysia in 2010. We urge the government to be firm on this for the sake of our youth.
Associate Professor Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar