The Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) supports harm reduction efforts but we have concerns about the unintended consequences of the Health Ministry’s proposal to table a new Act in Parliament to ban smoking and possession of tobacco products, including vape, to those born after 2005, and to implement plain packaging as well as banning the display of tobacco products at the point of sale.
MICCI is concerned that such prohibitive policies only impact legitimate businesses and not addressing the real issue at hand which is the illegal harmful cigarette trade and unregulated vape concoctions.
Trying to reduce but leaving the door unlocked.
Malaysia has a real issue at hand where the illegal cigarette trade is not only impacting legitimate businesses but also the Government’s agenda to reduce smoking prevalence. The real solution is to focus on addressing the illegal cigarette trade where more than 50% of smokers are smoking cheap and unregulated products. The Government needs to take more drastic measures to address this issue instead of coming up with prohibitive policies that will have no effect to bring down the incidence of illegal cigarettes.
Businesses have already been impacted significantly when MCO was imposed in the past two years and it was only recently that businesses are starting to slowly recover in the endemic environment.
Overzealous attention to the lawful instead of the unlawful.
Introducing such prohibitive policies on legitimate businesses now will create not only complexities for the businesses at retail but also send the wrong message to the business and investment communities that the unlawful gets away with it while overzealous prohibitive attention is focused on the regulated industry.
While the Government has stated its intent to ban smoking and possession of tobacco products, including vape to anyone born after 2005, no details have been shared on the mode of implementation which will require retail to check and ensure each purchaser’s year of birth before any transaction can occur.
Tackle the unlawful
Trying to have more prohibitive policies pressed upon the lawful trade in an attempt to reduce smoking prevalence does not work as this will lead to smokers jumping to the illegal unregulated products.
Since 2004, the Ministry of Health has introduced 18 new restrictions resulting in only 1% reduction in smoking prevalence but produced over a million vape users and illicit trade which grew from 30% to 58%.
Instead, focus on the illicit unregulated products first by plugging the bolt hole as this will be more effective. Next is gradual harm reduction programmes to wean smoking prevalence.
A case in point is smoking prevalence in Japan dropped by 30% since the launch of harm-reduction vape products in 2015.
The government should instead take a harm reduction alternative approach instead of just putting in more restrictions.