KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — An anti-tobacco group has questioned the absence of a cigarette tax hike in Budget 2024 that proposed taxing chewing tobacco instead.
The Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWatch) pointed out that chewing tobacco, a smokeless tobacco product, comprises only a fraction of the Malaysian market that predominantly smokes cigarettes.
The last excise duty increase on smoked tobacco or cigarettes was imposed eight years ago in 2015.
“That [chewing tobacco tax] is just affecting a limited, small or minute fraction, of private consumption and of the demand and supply of that tobacco market. How about the greater market of conventional cigarettes or smoking products?” MyWatch president Roslizawati Md Ali told CodeBlue.
“As we still question: Why is there no increase in taxes for the rest of the tobacco and smoking products? We have not seen any increase in taxes for conventional cigarettes since 2015, yet, globally tobacco industries are making great profits [and are] hardly affected by the current global economies, at the expense of cheap labour in farming and manufacturing costs.
“Why are we protecting these foreign MNCs (multinational corporations)?”
During the tabling of Budget 2024 in Parliament last Friday, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim unveiled the government’s proposal to impose a 5 per cent excise duty on chewing tobacco, with an additional RM27 per kilogram, a similar excise duty applied to snuff.
MyWatch also said the excise duty of 40 sen per ml on e-cigarette and vape liquids with nicotine – which was introduced just last April – was “very low”.
“It’s so unfortunate for the younger generation, as studies have indicated the impact of nicotine on the children’s brain development, which we know will only mature at approximately 25 years of age. What more with the increase in mental illness – what will be the impact on the next generation?”
Roslizawati, who is also a Malaysian Council For Tobacco Control (MCTC) board member, said that while anti-tobacco groups appreciated the new tax on chewing tobacco, the government had a legal responsibility to care for the health of the nation’s populace.