[UPDATED] Msia's illicit cigarette trade declines, but vaping trend surges

KUALA LUMPUR: The illicit cigarette prevalence in Malaysia remained high at 55.6 per cent last year, according to the 2023 full-year Illicit Cigarettes Study (ICS).

The report, however, revealed a noticeable decline in incidence of illicit white cigarette by 1.9 percentage points (pp) from 41.4 per cent in 2022 to 39.5 per cent last year, attributed to a better cooperation with the police and Customs Department.

It has seen enforcement of strict import controls and strong enforcement actions against illicit operators.

Meanwhile, there is an alarming rise in vaping trend among consumers in Malaysia now, the 12th largest vape market in the world.

JT International Bhd (JTI) Malaysia general manager Juliana Mohd Yahaya said the legal cigarette industry volume remained flat despite decline in incidence of illicit cigarette.

Based on the study conducted by Nielsen and industry data, it was revealed that the total legal volume has declined by 45 per cent in 10 years from 12.72 billion cigarette sticks in 2013 to 6.94 billion sticks sold last year, she said.

"The volume has shifted to other nicotine products, primarily due to consumers switching to vaping devices that are easily accessible and cheaper, with some sold at prices as low as RM2.50.

"Retailers we spoke to even admitted to selling vape devices to children," she said in a media briefing today.

This was following removal of nicotine from Poisons Act 1952 since April last year, providing easier access to the devices at retail outlets and online shopping platforms.

She said there was an urgent need for vaping to be regulated soon not only to protect consumers, but also facilitate the government tax revenue collection.

Apart from giving feedback to the authorities, the company also occasionally engaged with vaping industry players in raising its concerns, she said.

"In establishing regulations on vaping, the government should review existing laws in other countries before implementing them here.

"The United Kingdom, for instance, regulates the nicotine volume and strength in vape products, as well as banning tobacco products containing additives that have carcinogenics."

The e-liquids to a nicotine strength is capped at 20mg/ml in the UK, with a maximum e-cigarette tanks capacity of 2ml.

JTI Malaysia corporate affairs and communications director Shaiful Bahari said the vape industry in the country had yet to be regulated despite the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Act that has been passed.

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