Malaysia: TI plays word game to roll back ban on kiddie packs

9 September 2017:

The tobacco industry in Malaysia has stepped up its ploy to bring back kiddie packs. Reference to cigarette packs containing less than 20 sticks as kiddie packs is making the companies so uncomfortable that lately BAT is insisting these are not kiddie packs, but “mini packs”, while JTI is calling them “small packs”.

Malaysia implemented a ban on packs containing less than 20 sticks in 2010 as required in the WHO FCTC (Article 16) which calls for prohibiting the sale of cigarettes in small packs. Despite a clear statement from the Health Minister that the ministry would not give approval for the sale of such packets as the law prohibits them, Big Tobacco is now playing word games.

Worse, Big Tobacco is making a far-fetched, ludicrous claim that kiddie packs will reduce smuggling in Malaysia. This is a sinister ploy to enable the companies increase cigarette sales and undermine tax increases that will raise cigarette prices further.

Both BAT and JTI conveniently exclude the fact that when kiddie packs were allowed in Malaysia prior to 2010, smuggling continued to increase. The industry’s own data reveals this increase, which the industry used to fight tax increases.

Big tobacco does not want Malaysia to ratify the FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, which Malaysia actively participated to develop (2009 – 2012). Currently there are 30 Parties to this Protocol, and another 10 signatures are needed to make the Protocol become effective.

Coffee shop association running rogue

The Malaysian chapter of the Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors General Association (MSCSPGA) is running rogue in leading the charge to revoke the ban on kiddie packs. It has detracted from its core business of selling and serving food to now offering kiddie packs as a way to address smuggling. Of course the MSCSPGA benefits from kiddie pack sales.

The MSCSPGA is reading well from the TI’s script and even provides statistics claiming “10-stick cigarette-packs would be able to bring down the illegal tobacco trade by 10 to 15 per cent.” The MSCSPGA has no expertise customs law and enforcement.

The Singapore chapter of the MSCSPGA is compliant with the law in Singapore. The Singapore government has banned smoking in eating places, licensed retailers and banned pack display. However in Malaysia, the MSCSPGA opposes smoke-free coffee shops, fights licensing of retailers and now championing revoking the ban on kiddie packs.

The MSCSPGA should stop meddling in tobacco control and be more concerned about its own immediate issues – ensuring food handlers don’t smoke, food is prepared smoke-free environment and its customers are able to eat in a smoke-free environment.

Our message to the Malaysia government:

  • Retain the ban on kiddie packs;
  • License retail outlet to sell cigarettes as means to stubbing out illicit cigarettes;
  • Ratify the Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products and step-up enforcement to tackle the tobacco smuggling problem;