KUALA LUMPUR: High tobacco taxes are not the primary reason for illicit cigarette trade, a Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Economics and Management senior lecturer said.
Based on statistics by the Customs Department, Dr Norashidah Mohamed Nor said other factors that influence illicit trade included poor law enforcement, control of corruption, and the presence of criminal networks and informal distribution channels.
In fact, she said a high cigarette tax can help curb Malaysians’ smoking habits, especially among the youth.
“Youngsters have lower income than adults; therefore they would be more careful with their spending.
“Some of them maybe are just starting to pick up the habit and are not addicted yet so a higher tax could keep them away from smoking altogether,” she said today at the 2017 National Seminar on Tobacco Control.
She added that with about five million smokers in Malaysia, there will always be market for cigarettes if there are young people among them.
“The ideal retail price for cigarettes should be around RM30 a pack. With this, we can reduce (the number of smokers to) 2.6 million by 2055 and avert 1.3 million premature tobacco-related deaths.
“We will continue to urge the government to raise cigarette tax and at the same time keep in mind the Finance Ministry’s needs to find revenue for the country,” she said.
The seminar on tobacco control which was organised by the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
It was attended by 150 strategic partners from the government and private sectors, non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations (CBOs) and representatives of residents’ associations.
MCTC president Dr Molly Cheah said 30 per cent of Malaysians, who are non-smokers, are exposed to various diseases caused by cigarette smoke.
“MCTC will continue to be committed in the effort to make Malaysia smoke-free by 2045 through the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC),” she said.
Also present at the seminar was City Hall Special Tasks Officer Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah.