Health Ministry seeks to use funds from cigarette tax to help people quit smoking

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is seeking the revenue from the tax on cigarettes to help people quit smoking, says Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.

"We are in talks with the Finance Ministry to ensure that apart from the non-governmental organisations assisting us with counselling, revenue from cigarette tax should also be used to bear the cost of treatment of those seeking to quit smoking," said the Health Minister.

Dr Adham said this when answering a question raised by Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (PH-Parit Buntar) in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (Nov 30).

He said the proposal comes in response to a recent announcement by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz that the excise duty for cigarettes sold at duty-free islands would be on par with other cigarette taxes.

Dr Adham noted that there are currently about 4.8mil smokers in the country, or 21% of the entire population.

"Of this, some 48% or 2.3mil smokers want to quit but only 22,000 have successfully done so under the MQuit programme," he said.

Dr Adham said that about RM2mil was spent in 2018 and RM2.8mil last year to help treat smokers who registered with the programme to help kick their habit.

He added that the number of those treated had dropped last year to 9,222 due to an increase in the cost of treatment.

Dr Adham said the MQuit programme was launched in 2015 and will enter its third phase covering 2021 to 2025, adding that 22,601 smokers had registered under the programme last year compared to 10,240 in 2017.

On those seeking to quit smoking during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Adhad said that 3,442 smokers had visited the Health Ministry's website between Jan 1 and 21 Oct this year compared to only 1,678 for the whole of last year.

"Of the 3,442 views, 3,254 or 95% had registered for help," he added.

Under Budget 2021, the government will be making cigarettes and tobacco products as taxable goods on all duty-free islands such as Labuan, Langkawi, Tioman, and Pangkor, and any free zones that have been permitted the retail sale of duty-free cigarettes.

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