‘It’s an en­force­ment is­sue’

New Straits Times - - News -

man­u­fac­tur­ers are main­tain­ing their stand that any ad­di­tional tax in­crease on cig­a­rettes will only spur the “bur­geon­ing il­le­gal cig­a­rette trade”.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of Malaysian To­bacco Man­u­fac­tur­ers (CMTM) said the move would see a “no-win sit­u­a­tion for all par­ties”, namely the Health Min­istry in its bid to re­duce smok­ing preva­lence; Fi­nance Min­istry in its bid to in­crease tax rev­enue col­lec­tion; and, the le­git­i­mate to­bacco in­dus­try on its sus­tain­abil­ity.

CMTM said the con­sump­tion of black mar­ket cig­a­rettes stood at 57.1 per cent, based on the Il­licit Cig­a­rette Study by Nielsen Malaysia in De­cem­ber 2016.

“With il­le­gal cig­a­rettes dom­i­nat­ing more than half of the cig­a­rettes con­sumed in the na­tion, CMTM be­lieves that any fur­ther round of ex­cise-led price in­creases will just be another wind­fall for crim­i­nals be­hind the hun­dreds of un­reg­u­lated and tax-evaded il­le­gal cig­a­rette brands.

“These black mar­ket cig­a­rettes have al­ready over­taken the reg­u­lated le­gal seg­ment. They are sold for be­tween RM3 and RM5 per pack.

“As the il­le­gal cig­a­rette trade grew last year, the to­tal le­gal vol­ume in Malaysia ex­pe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline by more than 25 per cent com­pared with 2015.

“At this rate, the sus­tain­abil­ity of le­git­i­mate busi­nesses will be at risk,”

CMTM told the

It also claimed that il­licit cig­a­rettes were the main rea­son be­hind the in­crease in smok­ing preva­lence in Malaysia.

It cited sur­veys by the Health Min­istry that showed the num­ber of smok­ers in Malaysia in­creas­ing from 4.75 mil­lion in 2011 (Global Adult To­bacco Sur­vey 2011) to five mil­lion in 2015 (Na­tional Health and Mor­bid­ity Sur­vey 2015), along with the av­er­age num­ber of sticks smoked from 14 sticks to about 18 sticks.

“It is clear that smok­ers have shifted their con­sump­tion to il­le­gal cig­a­rettes in­stead of quit­ting, while the le­git­i­mate cig­a­rette vol­ume de­clined by more than 30 per cent dur­ing the same pe­riod.”

It said the To­bacco and ECi­garette Sur­vey among the Malaysian Ado­les­cent 2016, re­leased by the Health Min­istry re­cently, also re­vealed that 71.6 per cent of ado­les­cents who smoked spent less than RM9 on a pack of cig­a­rettes, which is be­low the min­i­mum cig­a­rette price of RM10.

“The cheap price and easy ac­cess to il­le­gal cig­a­rettes are the rea­sons why ado­les­cents pick up the habit,” it said.

CMTM also claimed that, de­spite higher cig­a­rette prices, the num­ber of smok­ers con­tin­ued to rise.

It cited the Na­tional Health and Mor­bid­ity Sur­vey, which re­ported an in­crease in smok­ing preva­lence from 21.5 per cent in 2006 to 22.8 per cent in 2015, de­spite see­ing the prices of cig­a­rette al­most dou­ble dur­ing the pe­riod.

Health econ­o­mist Dr No­rashidah Mo­hamed Nor said the ef­fects of a high tax in­crease im­posed in Novem­ber 2015 would only be re­flected in the next Na­tional Health and Mor­bid­ity Sur­vey (NHMS) in 2019.

“NHMS 2015 did not cap­ture sig­nif­i­cant ef­fects of re­duced smok­ing preva­lence since the data was col­lected from 2011 to mid-2015,” she said.

South­east Asia To­bacco Con­trol Al­liance se­nior pol­icy ad­viser Dr Mary As­sunta Kolandai said the pop­u­la­tion in­crease in Malaysia was another rea­son why it could ap­pear that the num­ber of smok­ers in Malaysia was in­creas­ing.

She said un­der the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Frame­work Con­ven­tion on To­bacco Con­trol, a to­bacco tax in­crease in Malaysia was in­evitable.

“Sin­ga­pore, Aus­tralia and Hong Kong all have much higher to­bacco taxes than Malaysia, but also much lower il­licit trade. Smug­gling of to­bacco is an en­force­ment is­sue.”

Cus­toms of­fi­cers show­ing seized il­licit cig­a­rettes in Kuala Tereng­ganu re­cently. The Il­licit Cig­a­rette Study by Nielsen Malaysia in De­cem­ber 2016 shows that 57.1 per cent of Malaysians con­sumed black mar­ket cig­a­rettes.

Dr No­rashidah Mo­hamed Nor

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