The Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MICCI) shared its concern over the announcement by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to ban the sale of cigarettes and vape to Malaysians born after 2005.
The proposed generational ban did not come as a surprise as the country has long tried to reduce smoking prevalence.
While we support MoH’s efforts to get ahead of the high smoking incidence in the country, we cannot condone arbitrary setting of policies and regulations without due consultations and science-based decision making. It can set a slippery slope precedent affecting other sectors as well.
MICCI believes that this knee-jerk decision may backfire, and that a ban will drive consumers, regardless of their age, to unregulated hazardous black-market sources.
Well thought out implementation is needed
MICCI believes that all policies must be well-thought out and thoroughly considered before implementation. Otherwise, it can lead to inconsistent enforcement and send a wrong message to the investment and business community. This move will also create an uncontrollable black market for cigarettes and vape.
These illicit and uncontrolled harmful products and ingredients are the elephant in the room that should be addressed.
What didn’t work
Take as an example of the introduction of high excise duties for cigarettes to reduce smoking prevalence in Malaysia. This instead created an environment where six out of every 10 packs of cigarettes sold in Malaysia are illegal. Malaysia’s tobacco black market currently commands 57% share of the total tobacco market, making the country number one in the world for illegal cigarettes.
This shows that the high excise duties did not achieve its objective of discouraging Malaysians to smoke. Now, the MoH has chosen to introduce yet another measure that will drive future adult consumers towards black market products.
Harm-Reduction policies works
MICCI urge that the government should first consider introducing harm-reduction policies, which has proven to encourage smokers to switch to less harmful products such as no-burn and vape.
Multiple international studies have shown that no-burn or vape is significantly less harmful. Countries that have adopted harm reduction policies have proven to work. Even New Zealand which MOH is proposing to emulate embraced and encouraged alternative products before announcing their plan.
The MoH cannot discount these success data and should look towards introducing comprehensive complementary harm-reduction regulations that both protect the health of Malaysians, and allow local businesses to continue contributing excise duties.
MICCI believes in a serious harm reduction stance to address the sale of illegal tobacco products and unregulated vape as an initial step instead.
The intended measure we believe is missing the wood for the trees with undue attention to an already legitimate heavily regulated tax revenue generating industry instead of the harmful unregulated illicit products that are widely available in the market.
Would the purpose of this new measure be achieved by driving users towards unregulated illicit harmful products instead?