85pc Malaysian say ban on cigarettes, tobacco product will not work, RTBA Malaysia survey show

NST Fri, Feb 11, 2022 12:01pm - 1 year View Original

RTBA Malaysia managing director Datuk Fazli Nordin said legal businesses are now faced with the risk of having to completely close down as the black market will then dominate the market.

KUALA LUMPUR: The majority of Malaysians believe that the recently announced policy of prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products, including vape, to those born after 2005 would fail.

According to a dipstick survey by the Retail and Trade Brand Advocacy Malaysia Chapter (RTBA Malaysia), 85 per cent of those surveyed said the ban would not work and would create a black market for cigarettes and vape.

Respondents to the survey also said that the ban would be difficult to enforce and ultimately impact Malaysia's legal and local businesses.

While RTBA Malaysia managing director Datuk Fazli Nordin understands the Ministry of Health's (MoH) motivation, the association believes the planned ban on cigarettes and vape for the next generation is based on pure theory and lacks evidence.

"Banning is not a solution. For example, vape products containing nicotine are currently prohibited from being sold in the market.

"Yet, there is consumer demand for vape products containing nicotine. Worst still is the tobacco black market, where Malaysia has the highest level of illegal

cigarettes in the world, driven by the huge price gap between legal and illegal products," he said in a statement today.

Fazli said this proposal would cause more negative consequences as the black market for cigarettes and vape will boom and that

the government must take a pragmatic approach.

He said the prohibition would see consumers turn to black market sources for cigarettes and vape once reaching the legal adult age.

"Contents of these black market products do not comply with the government's standards and regulations.

"This move may very well push legal and local businesses off the edge and facilitate an overwhelming black market economy," he said.

RTBA Malaysia is a non-governmental organisation that safeguards businesses from criminal conduct.

Fazli further said that vape entrepreneurs, in particular, will be seriously affected as they have long advocated for the regulations of vape products in Malaysia.

"Instead, legal businesses are now faced with the risk of having to completely close down as the black market will then dominate the market."

"There is also the issue of enforcement. Such policy will be very challenging to enforce, and there will be a lot of complexity to businesses," he said.

"The government must thoroughly review the repercussions of any new policies before implementation by conducting full, proper studies. Otherwise, it can lead to inconsistent enforcement and severely impact the local business community," Fazli added.

The dipstick survey, which was open to the public for close to a week, saw close to 1,200 Malaysians sharing their views on the ban on cigarettes and vape, which is proposed to be implemented starting

next year.

This move is similar to New Zealand's plan to phase out smoking starting 2027, when their policy is expected to take place.

"Although New Zealand's move inspired the Malaysian government, a stark difference is that New Zealand is not imposing a ban on vape products.

"Instead, the country promotes vape as a less harmful alternative and encourages New Zealanders to make the switch from traditional cigarettes," he said.

Fazli said multiple scientific studies had found vape to be a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.

Cochrane Review, in a report in 2021, concluded that vape could help people quit smoking and may be more effective than existing nicotine-replacement therapies.

In Malaysia, a recent study revealed that encouraging smokers to switch to vape as a less harmful alternative will see the country reduce the smoking population in Malaysia to four million by 2025.

Further, the report estimated that vape would help the country to reduce its healthcare spend on treating smoking- related diseases by RM1.3 billion in 2025 alone.

"Instead of implementing an outright ban, the ministry should consider reviewing these reports.

"We must remain open-minded and consider such solutions if our goal truly is to reduce smoking prevalence in the country," Fazli said.

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