Tobacco controls and it must continue to be a key part of government agenda — Darshan Singh Dhilon

SEPTEMBER 7 — It is a known fact that cigarette smoking is hazardous to one’s health and in reality, smoking is probably the worst thing people can do to their health. Even light or casual smokers run a serious risk of contracting disease.

The world over, governments have implemented various policy initiatives to deter people from this unhealthy habit, which includes increasing tax amount and making cigarettes more expensive, printing terrifying images of tobacco related diseases on cigarette packs to fright smokers or potential smokers, banning tobacco related advertisements and banning “kiddie” packs aiming to limit its access especially to younger generation and the lower income group.

Lots of hard work is also being put in by government and advocacy groups in organising anti-smoking campaigns aimed at educating people on the health dangers of smoking, discouraging people from the habit and encouraging smokers to try and quit. All this is done in the hope of seeing a healthier and productive nation.

Naturally, tobacco industry players are unhappy as these policy initiatives have a direct negative impact on their business and they will continue to hamper full implementation of these policies, but it is rather sad and unfortunate to note that retailers and restaurateurs have recently voiced up strong support for the reintroduction of “kiddie” packs proposal. The Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) would have expected them to object it, demonstrating the fact that social responsibly commitment outweighs business objectives.

While loss in tax revenue to illicit trade is an expected result of any control policy, it is in no way a justification in support of the proposal. As a matter of fact it is the responsibility of restaurateurs and retailer outlet operators to alert enforcement authorities if they find illicit cigarettes sold or offered to them. The government on the other hand must step up enforcement activity to minimise flow of illicit cigarettes into the market.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco use is the leading single preventable cause of death worldwide, killing over 7 million people each year. Its economic costs are also enormous, totalling more than US$1.4 trillion (RM5.93 trillion) in health care costs and lost productivity.  As such, The MCM calls on the government to not consider any proposal aimed at relaxing or compromising existing laws or policies in relation to tobacco controls and it must continue to be a key part of government agenda.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the view of the Malay Mail Online.

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