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KUALA LUMPUR: The best way to discourage people from taking up smoking is to make the habit very expensive by sharply increasing the tax on tobacco.
Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) president Prof Dr Syed Mohamed Aljunid suggested a tax increase of 75% to 80% of the current cigarette retail price.
He said research has shown that increasing the tobacco price would reduce the number of new smokers.
The tax should be that high because if it is any lower, the manufacturers could absorb it.
The current tax rate is between 45% and 50% of the retail price and it needs to be higher, he said after the launch of the Malaysian Conference on Tobacco Control 2005.
Prof Syed Mohamed added that the MCTC would serve as an advocate group to push for a tobacco tax increase.
By doing this, our council will fight the smoking scourge without directly confronting tobacco industry players.
This is a positive way of approaching it, he added.
He said MCTC's prevention efforts would also focus on children.
We have asked our members to channel their efforts into school-based programmes to give children the knowledge to not pick up the habit.
Prof Syed Mohamed said Malaysia must ratify the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control without delay so that further anti-smoking efforts could be made.
Health Ministry parliamentary-secretary Lee Kah Choon launched the conference.
In sharing his support for anti-smoking campaigns, Lee told reporters about a fellow MP who quit smoking with the help of his children.
My colleague was asked by his children to quit smoking and when he asked them why, they said it was because they loved him.
They struck a deal. He told his children to do well in their studies because he loved them.
His children scored straight As and my colleague had to give up the habit.
The conference themed Towards A Smoke-Free Malaysia organised by the MCTC and the Health Ministry began on Thursday and ends today.
The MCTC is made up of
28 organisations comprising professional organisations like the Malaysian Environmental Health Association, non-governmental organisations and research institutes from public universities.
It was established last year.
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