By John Isaac
THE federal government should look at ways and means to encourage Malaysians to quit smoking, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said.
He said by doing this, it would be a better way to curb the black market sales of illegal cigarettes instead of lowering tax; selling it for RM8 per pack.
“That is why we should be encouraging people to quit (smoking), not smoke more. So, the solution is still education plus enforcement,” he said in a Facebook post as reported by New Sarawak Tribune.
He was responding to Pontian MP and former deputy finance minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan who proposed that the price of cigarettes be lowered to RM8 per pack in a two-year pilot study.
Ahmad said Malaysia lost RM5 billion in tobacco tax revenue annually, as 64 percent of illegal cigarettes were sold in the country.
“The taxed cigarettes are priced from RM17.40 to RM12. The illegal (cigarettes from) RM8 to RM2 and there are some packs with five sticks which cost only RM2.
“This is very dangerous because these smuggled cigarettes can be bought by school children,” he said when debating the Customs (Amendment) Act 2020 in Parliament.
Dr Yii however said this should not be the way to handle the issue in the first place, instead pointing out that the main issue, in terms of enforcement and corruption, should be dealt with.
“This is not the way. We should be dealing with the core issue of enforcement and corruption which allowed the growth of the black market, rather than making it easier or encourage the habit of smoking,” he said.
The Bandar Kuching MP said even if the tax on cigarettes is lowered to make it affordable, it would mean that the nation would lose out on extra taxes to fund healthcare, education, development.
“But it still does stop others from buying the cheaper illegal cigarettes,” he said.
He also stressed that the harm and cost of smoking to the country is very significant.
“The government is expected to spend RM7.4 billion in treatment costs for major illnesses caused by smoking,” he said.