BAT refutes small packs plan will increase number of smokers


Booming trade: Some of the contraband cigarettes being sold in Chow Kit.

KUALA LUMPUR:  British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd has refuted allegation that small packs of cigarettes proposed by the industry is to increase the number of smokers in the country.

It said on Friday the intention of proposing small packs was a pragmatic measure to merely provide a legal alternative to illegal cigarettes to reduce the staggering volume of illegal cigarettes.

BAT pointed out the proposal had been very much taken out of context. The industry had respected the fact there would be varying views on the proposed reintroduction of small packs ranging from supportive to strong opposing views, it said.

“We strongly object to false allegations being made against the intent of the industry in supporting the reintroduction of small packs. 

“It must be stressed that it is the very sizeable presence of illegal cigarettes in Malaysia that is the main factor frustrating and undermining the health agenda in Malaysia,” it said.
 
BAT said it held strongly to the principle that its business is not about persuading people to smoke and it has stated continuously that “smoking should only be for adults who are aware of the risks”.

BAT shared the concern voiced by the Minister of Health that more than half of the country being flooded with illegal cigarettes is a very worrying situation. 

“The fact that illegal cigarettes have increased drastically despite the ban on small packs in 2010, shows that enforcement alone will not solve this alarming problem and proves that smoking initiation has been due to illegal cigarettes, not small packs. 
 
The problem has grown too big to rely on enforcement alone so the small pack proposal comes from an alternate perspective to address the demand side of the issue.

“If there are new robust ideas on how to eradicate the black market speedily and effectively, we hope that it will be put forth for consideration because clearly, the cigarette black market growth has outpaced all enforcement and education efforts,” it said. 

BAT said while anti-smoking awareness is crucial to ensure awareness on the health risks of smoking especially among youths and cessation programmes are important to help smokers who want to quit, “there remains a large number of smokers who choose to continue smoking and many whom have unfortunately chosen illegal cigarettes”.  
 
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