Malaysians agree cigarette ban won’t work

Instead, the outright ban will create a black market for cigarettes and vape 

by NURUL SUHAIDI / Pic by TMR FILE PIX

MAJORITY Malaysians contend that the recent ban policy on sale of cigarettes and tobacco, including prohibiting it from people born after 2005, will not work. 

According to a survey conducted by the Retail and Trade Brand Advocacy Malaysia Chapter (RTBA Malaysia), 85% of nearly 1,200 respondents believe that the ban will instead create a black market for cigarettes and vape. 

They also believe that the ban will be difficult to enforce, and that it will negatively impact the legal and local businesses in the country. 

RTBA Malaysia MD Datuk Fazli Nordin said while they understand the Health Ministry’s (MoH) motive, the proposed ban on cigarettes and vape for the next generation is 100% theory and 0% evidence. 

“Banning is not a solution. For example, vape products containing nicotine are now prohibited from being sold in the market, nonetheless there is consumer demand for vape products containing nicotine. 

“Worst still is that Malaysia’s tobacco black market has the highest level of illegal cigarettes in the world, driven by the huge price gap between legal and illegal products,” he said in a statement last Friday. 

Instead, he believed the government should take a pragmatic approach. 

“Prohibition will see consumers turn to black market sources for cigarettes and vape,” he added. 

He noted that more often, the contents of these black market products do not comply with the government’s requirement and law. 

“This move may very well push legal and local businesses off the edge and facilitate an overwhelming black market economy. 

“Vape business owners, in particular, will be severely impacted. They have long advocated for vape product regulation in Malaysia. Instead, legal businesses now face the challenge of having to shut down completely, as the illegal market will take over,” he said. 

Meanwhile, as for the enforcement, he said such a policy will be very challenging to enforce, and business will face a great deal of complexity. 

“Before implementing any new policies, the government must properly examine the consequences by conducting detailed studies. 

“Otherwise, it could lead to inconsistent enforcement and have a negative influence on the local economy,” he added. 

He said although the government was inspired by New Zealand’s action, there is one significant difference. 

“New Zealand does not prohibit the use of vape products. Instead, the country promotes vaping as a less dangerous alternative, encouraging New Zealanders to make the switch,” he said. 

Fazli said multiple scientific studies have backed the less severity of switching to vape alternatives. 

According to him, a recent study in Malaysia found that encouraging smokers to transition to vaping as a less dangerous alternative will lower Malaysia’s smoking population to four million by 2025. 

“Further, the report estimated that vape will help the country to reduce its healthcare spend on treating smoking-related diseases by RM1.3 billion in 2025 alone. 

“Instead of implementing an outright ban, MoH should consider reviewing these reports. 

“We must remain open-minded and consider such solutions if our goal truly is to reduce smoking prevalence in the country,” Fazli concluded.