BAT Malaysia keen on smokeless device but wants clear laws

Regulating these alternative smoking technologies will take time, says MD

By MARK RAO / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

British American Tobacco (M) Bhd (BAT Malaysia) is open to launching its smokeless glo product for the local market, but wants a clear legal framework to govern the use and sales of the product.

Its MD Erik Stoel said a regulatory and fiscal mechanism is mandatory to ensure the tobacco- heating product does not end up in the same legal limbo like vape-based devices.

“We are a bit concerned that if we were to introduce this type of products, the regulatory framework is not as sharp as it should be,” Stoel said after the company’s AGM in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said regulating these alternative smoking technologies will take time, but the company remains keen on launching the device.

“It should also be clear what type of excise levels is to be paid and what are the marketing freedoms and restrictions connected with the product,” he said.

BAT as a group had invested over US$1.5 billion (RM5.84 billion) in researching and developing alternatives and potentially less risky tobacco products.

BAT’s glo device, which heats tobacco instead of burning it, has been claimed to have between 90% and 95% fewer toxicants compared to conventional cigarettes in its released vapour.

The product has already been sold in Italy, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Romania, Canada and Switzerland. BAT’s vape products also have a strong presence across Europe.

Competitor Philip Morris International Inc has its IQOS smoke-free technology.

Cigarette companies are scurrying to develop smokeless and alternative tobacco products as rising health concerns are denting sales. Rising import of illicit cigarettes is also hurting cigarettes companies.

It is estimated that Malaysians smoked 21 billion sticks last year, but 58.3% from the total were illicit cigarettes.

Stoel said current enforcement strategies have failed to curb the rise in illegal cigarette consumption, and a greater integration between relevant agencies is required to combat the menace.

“The Health Ministry believes it should be under the purview of the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (to tackle this issue), but the reality is that the latter cannot enforce everything because they only have a certain merit of what they can do, and do not have the resources,” he said.

Stoel said an integrated national enforcement strategy between the Health Ministry, the coast guard, police and other agencies is required to bring down the imports of illegal cigarettes.