KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 – Subang MP Wong Chen suggested today a tax of between 65 percent and 75 percent, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, on cigarettes and tobacco products to curb smoking.
The PKR lawmaker also told Free Malaysia Today that the government needs to tackle problems of cigarette smuggling.
“To ensure better enforcement, officers also need to be reasonably paid to deter them from turning a blind eye to smuggling,” Chen was quoted saying.
Japan Tobacco International Berhad (JTI) reportedly said earlier this month that almost two out of three cigarettes in Malaysia were smuggled, with contraband cigarettes comprising 58.9 percent of all sales in 2018.
Malay Mail reported that JTI Malaysia general manager Cormac O’Rourke blamed the ubiquity of illegal cigarettes on “hyper taxation” that made tobacco unaffordable. Legal cigarettes are sold at up to RM17.50 per pack of 20 sticks, while contraband, according to O’Rourke, cost between RM3.50 and RM5.
The tobacco industry was hit with a 36 percent excise duty hike in November 2015.
Klang MP Charles Santiago from the DAP said enacting tougher tobacco regulations would not improve public health unless the government had the political will to enforce them.
“We have capital punishment for drug trafficking but it hasn’t stopped that problem,” said DAP’s Charles Santiago.
“The real solution is in education and awareness that smoking is a detriment to health and a burden to the healthcare system.”
The Health Ministry plans to draft new legislation by year end to regulate electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, amid the emergence of heated tobacco devices.