Selangor Journal

Stricter law to address smoking habit

I take note of the Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya’s proposal to have a country free from cigarette smoke by year 2045, or in about 28 years to come.
Dr Hilmi’s strategy is empowerment and promoting health, including awareness campaigns at international level.
Among other initiatives are increase in excise tax, placing warning photos on cigarette boxes and gazetting non-smoking areas.
In my opinion, what he was saying is nothing new and different from the reality where the number of smokers in Malaysia is increasing.
On August 29, 2016, Dr Hilmi said himself that roughly around 5 million Malaysians are active smokers.
This meant that one in six Malaysians are involved in this unhealthy habit. This number is worrying in view of the various initiatives undertaken by the government.
I refer to MyHealth, the Health Ministry’s official portal, where data shows that the number of smokers in Malaysia increased from 3.1 million in 2007 to 4.7 million in 2011.
The number continue to increase with exactly 5 million smokers 5 years down the road.
It is an alarming situation if comparison is made on the quantity of cigarette smoked in a year. From 18 billion cigarettes smoked in 1998, the number had reached 23.7 billion in 2015.
It is not a surprise when the Malaysian Health Ministry (KKM) announced that 100,000 Malaysians die from diseases caused by smoking.
What went wrong with the national health policy?
Why is the number of smokers increasing even though the government spends millions of ringgit each year for campaigns and clinics to stop smoking? Why are there still many people who buy cigarettes in spite photos of the bad effect of smoking are placed on the cigarette boxes and in advertisements?
The reality is that the government is half-hearted in banning cigarettes as it profits them.
The collection from the excise duty, which is now reaching RM1 billion, is a huge amount of money, in view that the government is constantly increasing cigarette prices hoping that demand will decline.
Unfortunately, smokers look for other alternatives by buying smuggled cigarettes which are not taxed, let alone being blocked by the authorities.
Tax is not an initiative with an impact that can stop Malaysians from the habit of smoking. What the government should do is law enforcement.
I am sure we can achieve to become a cigarette-free country with law enforcement as compared to posters and campaign pictures which are ignored by smokers.
YB Dr Azman Ismail
Kuala Kedah Member of Parliament
People’s Justice Party

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