Stop calling it 'Kiddie Packs' — Reza Hashim

SEPTEMBER 12 — The ever growing debate on the reintroduction of proposed small cigarette packs has brought to the light the word play between the parties that are in support of the proposal and those against. On one side, the anti-small packs group have called it “kiddie packs”, a reference to the risk that the packs would somehow be attractive to kids and therefore encourage smoking among the young.

The supporters of the proposal have been at pains to highlight that the packs are meant to address illegal trade, providing a legal alternative, while dismissing that it would attract youth because the real problem are the illegal cigarettes in the market. They say the real “kiddie packs” are those cigarettes that are selling at RM3-5 in the market.

This play of words has confused many but it highlights the emotional nature of the debate, in particular on the side on of those opposing the proposal. This is something I find disturbing.

The claim that such small packs would be “attractive” to kids is being highlighted as if suddenly the cigarette packaging will pull in new young smokers. While I see the emotional argument here, it simply defies the reality now that how this could suddenly be seen as creating a youth smoking crisis when the cheap illegal packs are already there. Such a crisis is already real and Government data already shows that 7 out of 10 young smokers are already smoking illegal products.

This seems to be the main argument for those opposing this proposal and dare I say that it is very much playing or  indeed misleading on the words. Kids should not smoke, cannot smoke and there are already laws against it. But they are – so the focus should be on the youth smoking problem than on the packaging.

I did not get it at first but the more I am seeing the campaign around this misleadingly labelled kiddie pack issue, the more I question whether the term kiddie pack is merely being used because there is no real basis or evidence to show that kids will take up smoking by having these smaller packs.

Crucially, it is a term that is taking away the focus from the actual issue – rising total smoking rates and the severe illegal cigarette problem that is actually fueling total smoking.

So far no solid proposal to tackle these issues have come out from those opposing the small packs and I do think there is merit to study and consider whether the small packs proposal can work. After all, if it does not, then there’s always an option to remove it again.

There is absolutely no point getting all emotional over this when there is no basis to show that in the first place. Pick up any kid right now who is illegally smoking a cigarette and its likely to be a pack of 20 sticks which is cheap and illegal.

So please, stop calling it kiddie packs.

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

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