KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — Tobacco company JTI Malaysia expressed concern today that Putrajaya could impose “tobacco-style” regulations on other industries after Putrajaya mandated health warnings on alcohol products.
JT International Berhad managing director Guilherme Silva said the regulatory requirements for alcohol products that were recently gazetted by the Health Ministry mostly originated from tobacco regulations implemented in Malaysia over the last several years.
“What we are seeing here are more regulations and restrictions being imposed on other categories in an attempt to meet certain public health objectives,” Silva said in a statement, pointing out that the textual health warnings that will be required for alcoholic beverages are similar to those required on cigarette packaging in Malaysia more than 10 years ago.
“It is not inconceivable that the authorities would be looking to copy measures such as packaging restrictions and tax increases which have been imposed on tobacco for other industries,” he added.
Silva said there have already been discussions on imposing a sugar tax and plain packaging, which countries like Australia and the UK have already enforced on tobacco products by stripping branding from cigarette packs, on other food and beverages in several countries.
Malay Mail Online reported that the Health Ministry gazetted earlier this month the Food (Amendment) Regulations 2016 that would make it compulsory, effective on December 1, 2017, for alcohol products to be labelled with the health warning that says alcohol consumption can be hazardous to health, similar to the warning on cigarette packs.
The sale of alcohol products would also be prohibited to those aged below 21 years.
JTI noted today that World Health Organisation director-general Dr Margaret Chan said in 2013 that public health was not just about “Big Tobacco anymore”, but also about “Big Food, Big Soda and Big Alcohol”.
“Public health lobby groups keep pointing to the resemblances between the tobacco, alcohol and food industries when calling for similar regulations to reduce consumption of certain products. Several countries, including Chile, France, Hungary, Mexico and the UK, have already raised the tax rate on certain foods and beverages,” said the tobacco company.
JTI global regulatory strategy vice president Michiel Reerink described World No Tobacco Day, which is tomorrow with plain packaging as its theme, as a political tool used to pressure governments to introduce “more extreme” regulations that he claimed only had negative consequences with no proven public health benefits.
“Will decision makers sleepwalk into another wave of extreme regulations at the expense of sound policymaking? Where will this stop?” he said.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam told Parliament last March that the government would not announce an implementation date for plain packaging until it has concluded talks with tobacco companies on intellectual property rights.