‘New cigarette price structure won’t work’
by Geryl Ogilvy Ruekeith, email@example.com. Posted on September 4, 2012, Tuesday
KUCHING: The jury remains out on whether the RM7 floor price for all cigarette brands effective last Saturday would coerce smokers to kick the habit.
A public poll conducted by The Borneo Post yesterday showed that many felt the new price control would not make much difference to smokers because those who puffed exclusive brands would not be adversely affected while those on cheaper brands might opt for contraband cigarettes.
School teacher Alexius Birai, despite lauding the floor price increase to deter youths from picking up the habit, believed most smokers would just hunt for smuggled brands.
“The lower income group or youths not contributing to the working force definitely cannot afford to smoke expensive cigarettes every day. However, the availability of contraband cigarettes might thwart the aim of encouraging smokers to decrease their cigarette intake or kick the habit altogether,” he said when contacted.
Alexius admitted that he and many those who had grown accustomed to cigarette price hikes all these years would just simply adapt to the new price structure.
From the economic viewpoint, the 31-year-old father of three said more efforts and focus were needed to fight the distribution of contraband cigarettes which is understood to be sold at a much cheaper price than taxed cigarettes brands.
“If contraband cigarettes are easily available in the market, the government will lose out on tax revenues while smugglers earn more profit,” he opined.
Harry Stephen, a 38-year-old machinery technician at a local microchip manufacturing plant, agreed that the price hike would not deter smokers from kicking the habit.
As a person who has kicked the habit some 10 years ago, he stated that instilling better discipline, promoting a healthy lifestyle or strengthening the government’s ‘Tak Nak’ and ‘No to Cigarette’ campaigns as the more effective solutions rather than hiking the price of cigarette.
Reported in the national English daily yesterday, the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control described the price control mechanism as not the sole yardstick to get smokers to kick the habit.
Council chairperson Dr Molly Cheah saw the new price regulation as only to curb the lower income group from buying certain brands as their higher income counterpart would not be as adversely affected.
She added that despite the country being a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control since 2005, the number of smokers here had increased. The trend had also affected teenagers.
Dr Cheah also suggested that plain packaging on cigarette packs would also be an effective way to discourage smoking, a move that will be implemented in Australia from Dec 1.
Effective last Saturday, the minimum price of all cigarette brands was set at RM7, and only packs with 20 sticks are permitted to be sold in the market.