GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has urged the Finance and Health Ministries to look into introducing higher tobacco tax rate in conjunction with World’s No Tobacco Day tomorrow, to encourage smokers to quit the addictive habit.
CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris also called on the newly-minted federal government to consider introducing plain packaging and withdraw duty-free concession on all tobacco products.
Stressing that smoking was the prime cause of various medical conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes globally, he said these were just the tip of the iceberg as smoking-related diseases accounted for about 20,000 deaths in Malaysia annually.
“Let us imagine its equivalent to 444 tour buses, packed with 45 passengers, crashing without any survivors in a year. It is also similar to having one such bus crashing daily over four days and two bus crashes on every fifth day. That is the number of Malaysians dying from smoking every year,” he said today.
According to Idris, if there was a news report of a bus accident, the news media would be drowned with letters and comments from the public. Yet the death of 20,000 Malaysians every year due to smoking was merely a statistic.
“We have failed miserably to eradicate preventable deaths,” he said.
Idris noted that coronary heart disease (CHD) had been recorded as a leading killer since 2007 in public hospitals.
Statistics, he pointed out, were worrying because cardiovascular disease (notably CHD and stroke) accounted for 24.7 per cent of deaths in public and private hospitals in 2013.
More than a quarter (38 per cent) of patients suffering from Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) were smokers, he said.
“Smoking spans beyond splurging hard-earned money on a non-productive habit that is highly addictive, it involves the inhalation of more than 4,000 chemicals into the lungs which are then absorbed into the body, causing a large number of serious health concerns.
“Casual exposure to second hand smoke, a common air pollutant, can also cause smoking-related diseases including CHD to a non-smoker,” he said, adding that it was found that smokers were almost twice likely to suffer a heart attack as compared to non-smokers.
He said one reason was that the carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke starved the blood of oxygen and this meant that the heart had to pump much harder to supply the body with the oxygen it requires.
Moreover, he stressed, smoking damaged the lining of the arteries, resulting in a build-up of fatty material (atheroma), thereby narrowing the artery which can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.
“Nicotine, a chemical that is found naturally in tobacco, is as addictive as heroin or cocaine and is attributed to stimulating the body to produce adrenaline, causing faster heart rate.
“Blood pressure is raised when the heart beats faster, thereby triggering the heart to work harder.
“As such, quitting is the only way to dramatically reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and a variety of cancers.
“Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked,” he added.