No minimum price enforcement a factor in high illegal cigs trade

No minimum price enforcement a factor in high illegal cigs trade

The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) should focus on enforcement of its own regulations and penalise those selling cigarettes below the minimum legal price before introducing prohibition-style laws against smoking, said a well-known legal columnist in a statement today.

According to R. Paneir Selvam, the Principal Consultant of a home-grown Think Tank, Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn Bhd, MOH raised the minimum retail price of cigarettes to RM12 per pack of 20 sticks in November 2020 from RM10 per pack under Regulation 8C (1) of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.

“Illegal cigarettes that are widely sold between RM4 to RM8 per pack are clearly contravening the minimum price regulations and MOH should exercise its enforcement power to seize those illegal cigarettes and legal action against those who break the law,” he adds.

“Under the same Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004, any individuals who are found guilty under the law can be fined RM10,000 or sentenced to jail for a minimum of two years or both.” 

Paneir further says that MOH could be more proactive in enforcing its own minimum price regulations for cigarettes rather than relying on other enforcement agencies like the Royal Malaysian Police and the Royal Customs Department to carry out enforcement duties against illegal cigarettes.

“A cohesive effort amongst Government Ministries, led by MOH, in close collaboration with enforcement agencies, are required to tackle the severe illegal cigarettes problem that cost the Government RM5 billion annually in uncollected taxes, while at the same time negatively impacting our national health agenda,” Paneir continues. 

Paneir also opined that MOH could also take the bull-by-the-horns in compelling the Multi-Agency Task Force (MATF), which was formed to curtail the illegal cigarettes trade and pay closer attention to minimum price infringement to facilitate the Ministry’s enforcement action through intelligence and personnel support.

Enforcement lags

According to Nielsen’s Illicit Cigarettes Study (ICS) in Malaysia 2021 report, the illegal cigarettes incidence at National Level has decreased by 6.5%, from 63.8% in 2020 to 57.3% in 2021. 

Paneir also commented that MOH’s lack of will to enforce its own regulations on the minimum selling price of cigarettes might hinder its efforts to introduce laws that prohibit the sale of cigarettes to those born after 2005.

“A complex set of laws are required to effectively carry out this Generation End Game proposal, and questions will be raised on enforcement responsibilities, infringement of personal freedom of choice and the collection and tracking of personal information, as people purchasing cigarettes may be required to reveal more than their age,” he says. 

R. Paneir Selvam is the Principal Consultant of Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn. Bhd. Arunachalarc describes itself as a primary and secondary source of accurate, objective information on national and international strategic issues for politicians and diplomats, foreign affairs analysts, international business, economists, the military, defence commentators, journalists, academics, and the informed public.

In addition, the Arunachalarc conducts research on legal, social, economic, and socio-political policies. The think tank is independent of any government, political party, or other organisation.