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KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — Coffee shop owners in Malaysia and Singapore are up in arms against the Malaysia Council for Tobacco Control's (MCTC) statement on the rise in sales of illegal cigarettes
The Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ Association (MSCSPGA) said the statement last month which rubbished the link between increased excise duties on cigarettes to the flourishing sale of illegal ones was “irresponsible.”
“Our association strongly believes such statements are utterly misleading to the public at large,” said MSCSPGA which has 43 affiliate associations across Malaysia in a statement.
It said that last year the retail industry including members of its association incurred income loss of half a billion ringgit owing to the influx of illegal cigarettes.
“And in the months following the excise increase late last year, retailers have suffered a further decline of 30 per cent in legal cigarette sales. Furthermore, our members have experienced a significant hike in the number of patrons asking them for cheap illicit cigarettes which is three to four times cheaper than legal cigarettes.
“This is undisputable proof that the problem is real and has been made worse by higher taxes. It is also a fact that cheap illegal cigarettes are now even more easily accessible to the youth — which is a major concern for us all.”
Late last month, MCTC criticised British American Tobacco (BAT) Malaysia for claiming illegal cigarette trade increased in Malaysia due to the 40 per cent excise duties hike.
MCTC president Dr Molly Cheah said there were no studies to prove BAT's claim and such problems should be handled properly by the relevant enforcement agencies.
“It is not true. Increasing excise duties will not lead to increase of illicit cigarettes. Such statement misleads the public,” Cheah said at a press conference at Seri Pacific Hotel.
“There was no correlation, no studies. It is a matter of enforcement,” she said.
MSCSPGA, however, labelled Cheah's statement as baseless, accusing the council of attempting to downplay the financial quandary retailers are struggling with.
“It seems that the aim of this certain organisation is to attack and hurt the poor retailers and to make Malaysia a haven for illicit cigarette smugglers. They demonstrated that they are clueless about the retailer industry in Malaysia and the challenges it faces,” MSCSPGA said.
In November last year, Putrajaya raised the price of cigarettes to RM18 per pack, following an over 40 per cent hike in excise duties.
Putrajaya is also considering the introduction of mandatory plain packaging for tobacco products to further discourage consumption.