For the coming Budget 2017, our government can seriously consider a proposal to raise the tobacco tax and tobacco-based products like cigarette prices drastically if they are really serious about curbing the smoking habit among the public which are now been becoming a plague in our society and starting to influence our youth as well.
This is because using price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco and its based products like cigarette can be seen as one of the most effective ways to reduce cigarette consumption among smokers and deter potential smokers.
This measure has also been recognised by a few tobacco control experts and also the parties in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC), of which Malaysia is a party since September, 2005.
The WHO-FCTC is a treaty adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003. The FCTC is a supranational agreement that seeks “to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke” by enacting a set of universal standards stating the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use in all forms worldwide.
Since smoking has been regarded by many as a cause of many preventable illness and could even lead to premature death, there have been many efforts carried out by the government to control and curb the cigarette selling and smoking habit among the public, which was done by strengthening the existing legislations as well as through education in schools and initiating awareness campaigns over the danger of smoking.
Such efforts have been done for the last many years.
Sadly, no positive result yet to appear from all the efforts which have been taken. There have been small efforts on the part of the government through the Health Ministry in increasing the price of cigarette but this is not enough to deter the heavy and addicted smoker from purchasing the item.
There also has been a proposal put forward by the government to extend the smoking-prohibited zones in the country involving public areas and air-conditioned eating areas.
The government’s ongoing efforts to control as well as creating awareness amongst the general public on the issue regarding cigarettes should be praised by all. However, for the coming Budget 2017, another bold step should and must be taken by the government namely by increasing the tax on tobacco as well as the cigarettes prices as part of the effort to deal with the ongoing problem.
DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW is a senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah & Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim).