I HAVE been following the debate on the proposal to reintroduce small cigarette packs. I wish it had been considered earlier.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a smoker but I used to work in a tobacco factory until I was retrenched recently.
The bosses told me that the factory had to be closed because of declining volume in sales due to the trade in illegal cigarettes which is huge. Before the closure, our factory was making slightly over half the number of cigarettes compared to 10 to 15 years ago.
If I were to do an estimate, I would say 1,000 people have lost their jobs due to closure of tobacco factories and printing companies this year alone.
But let’s get this point across. Everyone knows smoking is risky. It is harmful to health. Nobody denies this. NGOs are calling for the Health Ministry to impose more regulations. Cigarettes used to be available in small packs of 14, 10 and seven before 2010, I was told.
Let’s look at the statistics to see if banning the small packs deterred youths from picking up smoking.
> Number of smokers:
2006: 2.7 million smokers
2011: 4.7 million smokers
2015: 5.0 million smokers
> Average sticks consumed per day:
2006: 10 cigarettes
2011: 14 cigarettes
2015: 60% smoked 15 cigarettes and above
> Youth smokers in Malaysia:
These figures are from the Health Ministry’s National Health & Morbidity Survey 2006, Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2011, National Health & Morbidity Survey 2015, and Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey Among Malaysian Adolescents 2016. If what the NGOs say is true, the discontinuation of small packs since 2010 should have seen a reduction in the number of smokers and cigarette sticks consumed per day, and also the number of youth smokers. Instead, these numbers have increased after the sale of small packs was discontinued.
I am already out of the factory but I care for the people who are still working in the tobacco industry. I know they worry about their future if the illegal cigarette trade continues to eat into the legal industry’s pie. I hope the Government would give this a try because it may just save jobs.
And to those who are against the proposal, do check your facts and don’t do it based on emotional findings – because they cost jobs.