RM21.50 for pack of smokes, because they just won’t quit

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KUALA LUMPUR: Smokers can expect another blow to their wallets very soon as the price of cigarettes will go up again – this time to RM21.50 per pack.

According to The Star Online, this is among the measures the government is taking to get more Malaysians to quit, following the failure of its anti-smoking campaigns and the creation of no-smoking zones in public areas.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the government had burned an average of RM2 million a year since 2004 on anti-smoking campaigns that had failed to discourage smokers.

“Although we have held numerous campaigns, unfortunately, we are fighting against the odds.

“For example, we declared rest and recreation areas to be restricted smoking areas, yet there are still people smoking there,” he said in reply to a question from Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh (BN-Sabak Bernam) in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Hilmi said the government had stopped using billboards and was now using social media platforms to spread its anti-smoking message.

More drastic measures, including raising the price of cigarettes, will therefore be introduced, said the deputy minister.

“Cigarettes are currently sold at RM17 per pack and the target is to raise the price to RM21.50 per pack.”

Other steps are to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21, and the introduction of plain packaging to make it less attractive.

He said the Tobacco Products and Cigarettes Bill would also be tabled next year to better control the advertisement and sale of cigarettes.

About five million Malaysians smoke. According to the National Health and Morbidity Study, the number of smokers aged below 18 decreased to 24% in 2015 from 24.6% in 2011.

Hilmi said there were 774 centres in government clinics, hospitals and institutions in the country to help smokers quit for free.