THE ever-growing debate on the reintroduction of small cigarette packs has brought to light the word play between the parties that are in support of the proposal and those against.
On one side, the anti-small packs group have called it “kiddie packs”, a reference to the risk that the packs would somehow be attractive to kids and therefore encourage smoking among the young.
Supporters of the proposal have been at pains to highlight that the packs are meant to address illegal trade, providing a legal alternative, while dismissing that it would attract young people because the real problem is the trade in illegal cigarettes.
They say the real “kiddie packs” are those cigarettes that are selling at RM3-RM5 in the market.
This play of words has confused many but it highlights the emotional nature of the debate particularly on the side of those opposing the proposal. This is something I find disturbing.
The claim that such small packs would be “attractive” to kids is being highlighted as if suddenly the cigarette packaging would pull in new young smokers. While I see the emotional argument here, it simply defies the reality now – how this could suddenly be seen as creating a youth smoking crisis when the cheap illegal packs are already there? Such a crisis is already real and Government data shows that seven out of 10 young smokers are now smoking illegal products.
This seems to be the main argument for those opposing this proposal and, dare I say, that it is very much playing or indeed misleading on the words. Kids should not smoke, cannot smoke and there are already laws against it. But they are, so the focus should be on the youth smoking problem instead of the packaging.
I did not get it at first but the more I am seeing the campaign around this misleadingly labelled kiddie pack issue, the more I question whether the term kiddie pack is merely being used because there is no real basis or evidence to show that children will take up smoking by having these smaller packs.
Crucially, it is a term that is taking away the focus from the actual issue – the rising total smoking rate and severe illegal cigarette problem that is actually fuelling total smoking.
So far, no solid proposal to tackle these issues have come from those opposing the small packs and I do think there is merit to study and consider whether the small packs proposal can work. After all, if it doesn’t, then there’s always the option to remove it again.
There is absolutely no point in getting emotional over this when there is no basis to show that in the first place. Pick up any child right now who is illegally smoking a cigarette and it’s likely to be a pack of 20 which is cheap and illegal.
So please stop calling it kiddie pack.