The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged for tobacco to be excluded from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), according to a report in The Star.
According to MMA President Datuk N.K.S. Tharmaseelan, the overall objective of the TPPA was to increase and facilitate free trade of goods and services, but it should not apply to tobacco.
“Tobacco is the only product that kills half its users prematurely, causes numerous diseases and reduces productivity.
“There is simply no justification for tobacco to enjoy the privileges of free trade,” he said in a statement.
The TPPA is a U.S.-sponsored trade agreement that is being negotiated by 12 countries—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.
British American Tobacco (BAT) is benefitting from the gradual deflation in the illicit trade of cigarettes locally due to the improved regulatory environment in Malaysia, according to a story posted on The Star Online.
Managing director Datuk William Toh said the illegal buying and selling of cigarettes had declined last year by 1.6 percent compared to 2011.
“We saw a slight reduction in illicit trade to 34.5 percent of (overall) volume last year.
“Due to this, we are seeing a 0.24 percent growth in legal volume, which is the first time in many years where we have enjoyed volume growth,” Toh said at a briefing after the company’s AGM.
“This is good news and we hope the Government will continue to put in more effort into this area. Illicit trade at 34.5 percent is high by any standards.
“It is a difficult challenge as we have long coastlines with neighbouring countries where smugglers can easily enter,” he added.
BAT attributed the reduction in illicit trade to the sustained excise duties for two consecutive years and the increased role by the various enforcement agencies such as the Customs and border patrol in nabbing smugglers.
The city hall in the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu, proposed that buyers of contraband cigarettes be penalized along with the sellers of the smuggled smokes, according to a story in the the Borneo Post.
Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir, who made the proposal in his speech during the launch of Ops Pacak 2013, said buyers of contraband cigarettes have never been implicated by the relevant authorities in the effort to stamp out the smuggling and sale of contraband items, including cigarettes, in Sabah.
“All this while, we have only compounded or sentenced to imprisonment the smugglers and contraband peddlers. We never penalized the customers. Hence, it is time for us to think of imposing strict penalties on the buyers,” he said.
Abidin said that for a start, buyers caught with these contraband items should be given warnings or reminders that their action of buying such illegal items will not be without incrimination.
“The aim of this is to remind them not to become contributors to the flooding presence of illegal cigarettes in the local market,” he said.
Abidin also spoke on the city’s role as a tourist location and how the presence of illegal cigarette peddlers was an eyesore.
“On the part of DBKK (City Hall), we have often received complaints from the public about the sales of contrabands within the city. We only have a limited number of enforcers and are ill-equipped to handle the threat posed by certain peddlers and cigarette smugglers,” he said.