Cigarette makers urge review of ‘unproductive’ tobacco ban and warn government could lose over RM5bn in revenue

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 31): The Malaysian Confederation of Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM) has urged Putrajaya to review the bill banning tobacco products from those born in 2007, saying it could drive up illicit trade and cause the government to lose over RM5 billion in industry revenue.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the group – made up of British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd, JT International Bhd and Philip Morris (Malaysia) Bhd – said the illegal tobacco and vape market could “explode” if the proposed act enters into force.

“In Malaysia, the illegal market for tobacco products is huge, with estimates that nearly 60% of cigarettes are sold illegally. The scale of the illegal tobacco trade in Malaysia should not be underestimated. many criminal syndicates that are sophisticated and can quickly adapt to any change.

“Industry figures show that an outright ban would increase illicit trade from 57.7% in May 2022 to 63.8% or more in 2020. This will cost the government over $5 billion. of RM of revenue from the tobacco industry,” It said.

The CMTM also warned that the impact of the Tobacco Products and Smoking Control Bill 2022 extends beyond those born in 2007, to the wider economy.

“The proposed generational endgame is punitive and punishes everyone. Businesses will have difficulty enforcing some of the provisions of the law and, in some cases, compliance costs will also increase.”

These higher costs will make it difficult for businesses to maintain competitiveness in this tough economy, the group said.

“Some may be forced to close their businesses, resulting in the layoff of thousands of people. During this time, businesses may also have to cut costs to ensure costs are under control,” he said, adding that Malaysia’s brilliance among investors might be dampened because of the law. .

“Tourists will also be affected as law enforcement powers are expanded, criminalizing individuals including tourists and business owners.

The confederation also called the bill an attack on individual freedoms.

“Adults are deemed to have the right to control themselves and no authority can revoke this right. The Consumer Protection Act 1999 was enacted to give greater protection to consumers, and the rights granted by this Act cannot not be terminated,” he said, adding that Section 6 of the Act provides that its provisions will be in effect, despite attempts to limit them by contracts.

The CMTM also described as “cruel” the penalties for non-compliance with the proposed law.

“Our future generations will face severe repression and risk having their vehicles and homes searched, their phones checked and their personal data forced to be accessed.

“More worrying is that the law will provide sweeping enforcement powers, such as access to personal data that requires users [to] give up their passwords; open the bags; detention and search of vehicles; and forcibly enter homes to search and seize, without warrants, including body searches.

“Instead of creating a smoke-free generation, Malaysia could instead create a new generation filled with criminals being punished for buying or using a legally permitted product from others,” he said.

Finally, the CMTM said the bill would ensure that people born after 2007 are treated differently than those born before that.

“The future generation will have no choice but to consent to identity card checks, which contradicts the Personal Data Protection Act 2010.

“Working adults will have to hide their habit and use tobacco products, heated tobacco products, or vapes in dark corners for fear of being caught using illegal substances. They will be discriminated against and may feel unfairly treated .

“Smoke-free products are available on the market thanks to global scientific innovations, [as well as] the success and progress of research in this area. It is vital that Malaysia strikes a balance between public health and market innovation that has created alternatives for adult smokers with the proposed law,” the confederation said.

Under the proposed law, no one born on or after January 1, 2007 should smoke a tobacco product or tobacco substitute product, use a smoking device, or possess tobacco products, smoking substances, substitute tobacco or smoking devices.

Anyone found in violation commits an offense and will, if convicted, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000, it reads.

Apart from this, persons born on or after January 1, 2007, who purchase tobacco products, smoking substances and substitute tobacco products or smoking devices, may be fined not to exceed 5 RM000 if convicted.

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