KUALA LUMPUR: Raising cigarette prices to RM21.50 a packet is among the measures to be taken to reduce the number of smokers in the country.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya acknowledged that the Government's anti-smoking campaigns have so far failed to deter Malaysians from smoking.
"Although we have held numerous campaigns, unfortunately we are fighting against the odds.
"For example, we have declared rest and recreation areas to be restricted smoking areas, yet there are still people smoking there," he said when replying a question by Datuk Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh (BN-Sabak Bernam) in the Dewan Rakyat Tuesday.
He said the Government had spent an average of RM2mil a year since 2004 in anti-smoking campaigns.
"We have stopped putting up anti-smoking billboards and are now using social media instead," he added.
He noted that based on the National Health and Morbidity Study, smoking among those below 18 went down to 24% in 2015 from 24.6% in 2011.
Dr Hilmi said there are plans to increase the prices of cigarettes in the near future as a means to deter people from smoking.
"Cigarettes are currently sold at RM17 per packet and the target is to raise the price to RM21.50 per packet," he said.
He said the Government plans to table the Tobacco Products and Cigarettes Bill next year to better control the advertisement and sale of cigarettes.
This, he added, includes introducing plain packaging and increasing the age limit to 21 for those permitted to buy cigarettes.
To help smokers kick the habit, Dr Hilmi said there are 774 centres in government clinics, hospitals and institutions that offer free treatment to those wanting to stop smoking.There are an estimated five million smokers nationwide.