MALAYSIA became party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003. FCTC Article 15 enumerates in detail measures to tackle illicit trade in tobacco products.
Although the relevant authorities have been discussing the illicit trade in tobacco products, including preparation for the ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (ITP) by Malaysia, there seems to be lack of or even absence of serious and effective measures to stop the reportedly growing illicit trade in tobacco products so far.
Article 15.7 of the FCTC calls for licensing to control or regulate the production and distribution of tobacco products in order to prevent illicit trade.
The National Kenaf and Tobacco Board Act 2009 amendment in 2010 stipulates licensing of tobacco and tobacco products.
Licensing of Tobacco and Tobacco Products Regulation 2011 has yet to be implemented amid continued opposition by the tobacco industry.
We must be reminded that the provision on the ban of kiddie packs under The Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 was also delayed for over six years due to interference by the tobacco industry.
Again, this is in contravention to Article 5 General obligations of the WHO FCTC, which states in 5.3: “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”
With such blatant disregard to legal provisions and international treaty obligations, the tobacco industry’s typical threats of loss of employment, loss to tobacco farmers, increasing illicit cigarettes and now the increased use of illicit cigarettes by young smokers become the emotive justification by the industry and the front groups in chorus to blind and blinker all the public healthcare professionals’ expert recommendations.
Cigarette retailers and the cigarette companies are not a stakeholder in deciding public health policies. They have vested interest in the sale and promotion of tobacco products.
WHO reports link direct and indirect involvement of the tobacco industry in the smuggling and illicit trade of tobacco products. As such, they have no credibility and their proposal aims only to guarantee benefits to them.
Instead of entertaining regressive ideas and proposals, all related parties should be tightening the tobacco products supply chain under the Blue Ocean Strategy.
For a start, immediately institute a ban on sale of tobacco products at places other than permanent premises.
This measure was successfully used to tackle pirated CD/DVD sale by local governments before.
Hasten the implementation of licensing of tobacco and tobacco products by National Kenaf and Tobacco Board.
MUHAMMAD SHA’ANI ABDULLAH
Tobacco Control @ Smoke Free Malaysia Initiative
Federation of Malaysia Consumers Association