August 29,2017

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YOU know we are living in confusing times when a product that kills six million people every year is offered as an alternative to its illicit counterpart.
Last week, a few news outlets reported that the Malaysian Government is considering bringing back “kiddie packs” – smaller packs of cigarettes. Kiddie packs (of 10), being more affordable, were designed to reel in “low consumption” smokers such as casual or social smokers, women and children.

They have been banned by many countries worldwide – including Malaysia in 2010 – and rightfully so. Kiddie packs, once legalised, would be priced cheaply, packaged attractively, and shown prominently – all of which appeal to children.

Studies have shown that exposure to cigarettes, like how it is currently displayed in our coffeeshops and convenient stores, combined with price discounts, increases youth smoking.

Experts worldwide also state that most adult smokers started when they were teenagers, and this is supported by our study of young smokers in 2016. Among 143 teenagers, 70% started smoking between 12 and 15 years old. Close to 60% did not even enjoy smoking and had tried to quit but did not succeed.

These children also underestimated the addictive power of nicotine: close to 50% said they didn’t think they would still be smoking after one year. Only 25% thought it would be difficult for someone to quit once they start.
Do we really want to tempt more children to experiment, start and sustain their addiction with premium kiddie packs? Do we want more victims to develop a lifetime addiction or, in other words, become lifelong customers of the tobacco industry?
Those arguing for kiddie packs would have us believe that anyone who is against these small packs support illicit cigarettes. But the alternative to illicit cigarettes is not legal cigarettes. ALL cigarettes are lethal.

The alternative to illicit and legal cigarettes is not starting in the first place. This is why we need to reduce society’s access to cigarettes (licensing), and reduce their affordability (price hike) as well as their appeal (plain packaging).

The alternative to increased tax revenue if we have kiddie packs is enforcing tobacco control laws to safeguard the healthcare, development and economy of Malaysia.

In the long run, taxpayers and the Government will save millions on treating diseases caused or ¬worsened by smoking, including 16 types of cancer, diabetes, and heart, lung and mental illnesses.

The alternative to derailing every tobacco control measure proposed is putting the health of Malaysians first. It is rallying everyone to support the work – and deferring to the expertise as well as experience – of our Health Ministry and the World Health Organization.

This week, we will celebrate our 60th National Day as well as our successful hosting of the SEA Games. Don’t fall for the “lesser of two evils” argument. It undermines your intelligence, the hard work of ministries who are enforcing tobacco control, and the will of those who want to – and can – quit.

Being pragmatic is having all sectors and industries – trade, customs, finance, education, youths, retailers, non-governmental organisations – unite against an industry that has caused harm and taken lives for decades.

Let us do better to protect our future generation and keep kiddie packs off our shelves.

Source: THE STAR