Materia Medica Malaysiana

June 1, 2007

RM15m goes up in smoke daily

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:45 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The poison stick is drawing millions of Malaysians into spending more than RM15 million daily.
Despite an aggressive campaign by the government to say “tak nak” to cigarettes, Malaysians are smoking 30 million sticks a day, which adds up to a staggering RM6 billion going up in smoke a year.
According to the Malaysian Medical Association’s committee on Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) which looked at the smoking habits of the average Malaysian, 50 per cent of more than 3.5 million smokers nationwide smoked nearly 10 sticks a day.
If the remaining 50 per cent smoked five cigarettes a day, this would amount to a grand total of nearly 11 million cigarettes a day.
ASH chairman Prof Dr Lekhraj Rampal is concerned that many of the smokers were between 15 and 25 years old.
“Tobacco is hazardous to health. There are about 4,000 known chemicals in tobacco smoke, with more than 50 of them likely to cause cancer,” he said.
Many Malaysians were dying of diseases related to smoking at a productive age, he added.
“But what is even more serious is the fact that thousands of young people who have never smoked are also dying due to diseases arising out of second-hand tobacco smoke (SHS).”
The World Health Organisation estimates that around 700 million children or almost half of the world’s children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke, particularly at home.
Speaking to the media in conjunction with “World No Tobacco Day”, Dr Rampal said the majority of male smokers in the country were Malays, followed by Chinese and Indians.
As for women, Chinese topped the list with Malays and Indians behind them.
Dr Rampal said ASH would propose that the government increased the tobacco tax by 30 per cent in the 2008 Budget.
“The high price will discourage schoolchildren, college students and the poor from smoking, and the money the government gets from the taxes can be used for those who want to quit smoking and for ‘No Smoking’ campaigns and programmes.”
He said high taxes would also stop the tobacco price war.
“The government should strictly enforce the ban on advertisements and promotions by cigarette companies at restaurants.
“We, in fact, want cigarettes to be sold ‘under the counter’ rather than being displayed prominently at the back of counters in shops and restaurants,” he added.
On this year’s theme of “100 per cent smoke-free environment as the only effective way to protect people everywhere from exposure to SHS”, Dr Rampal said the government should ban smoking in all work and public places.
“The WHO has signalled an urgent need for countries to make all indoor and public places 100 per cent smoke-free as a smoke-free environment is the only proven way to adequately protect the health from the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.”
In March 2004, Ireland became the first nation in the world to create and enjoy smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants and pubs.
Within three months, Norway’s smoke-free legislation came into force.
Since then, their examples have been followed by countries such as New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay.
Dr Rampal said Malaysia had progressed in terms of smoke-free policies in hospitals, schools, government departments, air-conditioned restaurants and several private sector work places, including the electronic and print media companies.

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