• May 26, 2024

Call for tax increase

 Call for tax increase

About 1.1 million deaths could be prevented during the next 40 years in Malaysia if cigarette prices were increased and other measures put in place, according to a story in The Star.

Raising the price of a pack of cigarettes from RM17.00 to RM21.50, coupled with other anti-smoking policies, would deter about 2.1 million Malaysians from picking up the habit, according to a study by the Health Ministry and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

UPM senior lecturer Dr. Norashidah Mohamed Nor, one of the study’s lead researchers, said the excise tax on cigarettes should be increased from 49 percent to 60 percent, which would increase the price per stick from 40 sen to 64 sen.

But if the government’s target of a 15 percent smoking prevalence in 2025 was to be met, she said, excise increases would have to be backed by 100 percent enforcement of smoke-free policies, a comprehensive marketing ban, including a ban on point-of-sale promotions, and a mass media campaign on the dangers of smoking.

As of 2015, about five million or 22.8 percent of the Malaysian population aged 15 and above were smokers.

Referring to claims that the consumption of illicit cigarettes would rise if licit cigarettes were made more expensive, Norashidah said the study had found this to be inaccurate. She described the demand for contraband as relatively stable. Contraband’s share of the overall market had decreased slightly despite the fact that cigarette excise tax had been increased during the “past years”.

Last month, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Hilmi Yaha­ya said raising cigarette prices to RM21.50 a pack was among the measures to be taken to reduce the number of smokers in the country.

But the Health director-general Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah said the scourge of illicit cigarettes would have to be addressed first before increasing the price. “We are discussing with the Immigration Department, Finance Ministry and all the concerned parties before implementing the new price.”