(File pix) Smoking-related illness diseases, such as ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases had consumed about RM3.5 billion of Malaysia’s healthcare costs.

KUALA LUMPUR: Instead of introducing 'kiddie packs' for cigarettes, the government should formulate strategies to combat the illicit cigarettes market including restricting cigarette sale licenses for retail outlets.

National Council of Women's Organisations Malaysia (NCWO) president Professor Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin said rigorous evaluation studies need to be conducted to monitor the extent of illicit trade activities.

Commenting on recent pressure on the government to bring back the sale of 'kiddie packs' to combat the increasing sale of illicit cigarettes, Sharifah Hapsah said introducing 'kiddie packs' would be a step in the wrong direction.

“The adoption of this possible undesirable action is a clear violation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 where public health policies with regards to tobacco control are being interfered by entities of commercial and vested interest.

“The evidence is staggering - tobacco kills one person every six seconds – that is, one in 10 deaths among adults worldwide; accounting for 500 million deaths a year.

“By 2030, unless urgent action is taken, tobacco’s annual death toll will rise to more than eight million. WHO in its Global Tobacco Epidemic Report 2008 warns us that if current trends continue unchecked, tobacco could kill up to one billion people in this century,” she said.

Sharifah Hapsah said about 50 teenagers pick up the smoking habit every day.

“Of the 4.7 million smokers in Malaysia, most start before the age of 18; with 25 per cent before the age of 10.

She cited a study on Juvenile Delinquency carried out by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation, which showed that cigarette smoking offences (87 per cent) is the top of the seven offences among delinquent children.

"Making cigarettes affordable for our youth and children will clearly result in far greater repercussions than we can imagine,” she said adding that every year, more than 20,000 Malaysians were killed by tobacco related diseases.

Sharifah Hapsah also noted that what was more alarming is that those who are not smoking are also at risk.

“The Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2012 on Malaysia revealed that four out of 10 adults were found to be exposed to second-hand smoke at home (7.6 million adults), and four out of 10 were found to be exposed to second-hand smoke indoors at their workplace (2.3 million adults).

"Among those adults who visited a restaurant in the past 30 days, seven out of 10 would have been exposed to second-hand smoke (8.6 million adults),” she said.

Smoking-related illness diseases, she said, such as ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases had consumed about RM3.5 billion of Malaysia’s healthcare costs.

“As a nation, we simply cannot turn our backs on the responsibility of protecting our youths and children from any kind of clear threat to their lives. Evidence from several studies suggests that the observed decline in many countries in coronary heart disease mortality, one of the most important non-communicable diseases in terms of burden of disease is through prevention, rather than treating the consequences of the disease.

This means mitigating risk factors such as tobacco use.

“The compelling evidence of the loss of life and the health cost implications along with the strong call of the people to safeguard the health and lives of their families summon our collective attention.

“NCWO is confident that the government will hold fast to its 2010 decision to ban 'kiddie packs' and take the necessary measures to stand by and fulfil its obligations to the people.”

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