KUALA LUMPUR: The government is seeking stakeholders’ feedback on the best way to tighten enforcement against illegal distribution of tobacco, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.
The National Kenaf and Tobacco Board (NKTB), which comes under his ministry's purview, is tasked with regulating tobacco production.
"The NKTB is now seeking stakeholders’ feedback. We want to assess the best way to step up enforcement against illegal distribution of tobacco. The ultimate aim is to contribute towards reducing illicit cigarette trade," Mah said in a statement today.
This is part of his ministry's effort in furthering Malaysia's commitment under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
The WHO-FCTC treaty seeks to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Malaysia, a signatory of WHO-FCTC since 2005, has been actively raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use in all forms.
Mah said this upstream enforcement initiative by NKTB is in line with that of neighbouring countries. "Brunei, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have started to tighten enforcement against illegal distribution of tobacco. So far, we are seeing effective end results."
Malaysia imposes high cigarette tax to deter the unhealthy habit of smoking. In July 2015, the Health Ministry gazetted the minimum price of a packet of 20 cigarette sticks should be no less than RM10, effective from August 2016, under Subregulation 8C of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 (Amendment 2015).
Big names in the tobacco industry such as Philip Morris (M) Sdn Bhd, British American Tobacco (M) Bhd and JTI International Bhd price their cigarettes accordingly and contribute towards this annual multi-billion ringgit government tax collection.
In November 2016, the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM) reportedly said one out of every two packs of cigarettes sold in Malaysia is illegal. It also estimated illegal cigarette trade caused the government to lose RM4 billion in tax collection.
Illicit cigarette trade activities in Malaysia fall under two categories; namely, contraband and counterfeit.
Contrabands are cigarettes smuggled from abroad without domestic duty paid while counterfeits are cigarettes manufactured without authorisation of the rightful owners, with intent to deceive consumers.