Standard debate

The Malaysian Health Ministry is considering introducing standard packaging for cigarettes, according to a story by Robin Augustin for Free Malaysia Today.

Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye was said to have told Today that standardized tobacco packaging was part of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Malaysia had become a party to in 2005.

“This has been done in countries like Australia, and the results can be seen,” he said.

Lee acknowledged that there would be opposition to the move from industry players and traders.

“They will cite reasons like the cost of the exercise and how it will affect their business or the intellectual property rights of tobacco companies,” he said.

“We are considering it. There is no timeline set. We have to study the matter and hold talks with stakeholders.”

The Galen Center for Health and Social Policy was said to have told Today it would support a move to introduce standardized tobacco packaging but noted several matters that should be considered firstly.

The think tank’s CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said these matters included the need for new and specific legislation to ensure the parameters of standardized tobacco packaging were clear on intellectual property rights.

“There are legitimate concerns from businesses regarding how their trademarks would be affected by this move,” he said.

“Their worries and issues need to be fairly heard and addressed.”

Azrul warned that the imposition of standardized tobacco packaging could result in smokers choosing cheaper tobacco products, which could lead to an increase in smoking rates.

“It could increase the preference for illicit tobacco products which would likely be the cheapest on the shelf,” he said, adding that the government must be prepared to implement more enforcement regarding the illicit cigarette market.