Smoking products ban could trigger rise in black market, says trade group

PETALING JAYA: The proposed move to ban smoking products to Malaysians born after 2005 will affect businesses and trigger a rise in the illicit sale of the products, says the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MICCI).

MICCI said that such impulsive decisions will drive consumers to unregulated black-market sources.

The Health Ministry had said on Wednesday (Jan 26) that it had plans to ban smoking products for those born after 2005 to control and prevent non-communicable diseases, with hopes that the legislation would be passed this year.

“While we support the Health Ministry’s efforts to get ahead of the high smoking incidence in the country, we cannot condone arbitrary setting of policies and regulations without due consultation and science-based decision making.

“It can set a slippery slope precedent affecting other sectors as well,” it said in a statement on Friday (Jan 28).

MICCI suggested that all policies should be carefully deliberated before implementation to avoid inconsistent enforcement and discouraging the business community.

It claimed the introduction of high excise duties for cigarettes had backfired as it encouraged the sale of illegal cigarettes.

“Malaysia’s tobacco black market currently commands 57% share of the total tobacco market, making the country number one in the world for illegal cigarettes,” it said.

MICCI urged the government to consider introducing harm-reduction policies, which encouraged smokers to switch to less harmful products such as no-burn and vape.

“Multiple international studies have shown that no-burn or vape is significantly less harmful,” it said, noting that countries such as New Zealand have successfully implemented such policies.

MICCI said by introducing comprehensive complementary harm-reduction regulations, it could protect the health of Malaysians, as well as allow local businesses to continue contributing excise duties.

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