Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 31, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 7:28 am

Malaysia postpones ban on small packs of cigarettes?

Malaysia’s government has postponed by one year a proposed ban on the sale of small packs of cigarettes, a senior government official said Wednesday, provoking an outcry from anti-smoking groups.
The ban on packs of less than 20 cigarettes was supposed to come into effect on July 1, 2005, but the government has decided to hold off until July 1, 2006, said Ramlee Rahmat, director of disease control at the Health Ministry.
Some cigarette manufacturers made an appeal to postpone the ban, and “the (health) minister has taken this into consideration,” Ramlee told Dow Jones Newswires.
The rationale for the proposed ban is that small packs make cigarettes affordable for teenagers, the most vulnerable group among new smokers.
S.M. Mohamad Idris, president of the Consumers Association of Penang, which had lobbied for the ban, said he was shocked by the decision.
It appears the government is “putting the interest of companies above health,” he said. “What is the point of all your anti-smoking campaigns if the tobacco companies are allowed to get away with this?”
But other anti-tobacco measures are expected to go ahead as part of Malaysia’s efforts to restrict smoking. Among the steps are a ban on point-of-sale advertisements at stores beginning June 1. Also, tobacco companies will not be allowed to sponsor events such as Formula One racing this year.
Sponsorship of soccer matches and other sports is already illegal.
About 3.6 million of Malaysia’s 25 million people are smokers, and nearly half of adult men light up regularly, according to Health Ministry statistics. About 10,000 people die every year from smoking-related ailments.
The government raised taxes on cigarettes by 40 percent in its 2005 budget. The government also has launched a US$26 million (�20 million) anti-smoking campaign.
Shares of cigarette makers British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd., the industry leader in sales, and JT International Bhd. have suffered in the past few months due to steep tax and price hikes.
As a result, cigarette sales fell 3 percent in 2004 to 19.4 billion cigarettes, industry data show.

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