Ministry proposes ban on sale of duty-free cigarettes
PETALING JAYA: There may be no more tax-free cigarettes sold at duty-free shops nationwide as part of the Governmentâ€™s efforts to snuff out the smoking habit.
Cigarettes sold at duty-free shops are more than 40% cheaper than those outside.
When the Government recently increased the duty on all tobacco products, many operators of duty-free shops in Langkawi expected more Malaysians to travel to the island to buy cigarettes.
Health Ministry Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Abdul Rasid Kasri said the move was to ensure that there was no source of cheap cigarettes in the country.
He said the new regulations, if approved, would ban the sale of all tax-free tobacco products at international airports and duty-free zones in the country, including Langkawi, Bukit Kayu Hitam and Tioman.
Dr Abdul Rasid said his division would soon submit the recommendations to the Government to abolish all sale of tax-free and duty-free tobacco products in the country.
"We will not compromise on this but we are willing to negotiate the time frame for implementation," he told The Star.
He said the Health Ministry would work with the Customs Department to iron out a few details, adding that this measure was in line with the Governmentâ€™s "Health First" policy.
Dr Abdul Rasid said Malaysia had signed the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on Sept 23 last year.
So far, 32 countries had signed the framework. The convention will come into force once 40 countries had signed it.
He said that under the convention, signatory parties recognise that progressive price and tax increases on tobacco products can bring down the consumption of tobacco products significantly, especially amongst the young.
Ten thousand Malaysians die each year as a result of smoking and this figure is expected to triple by the year 2030. There are an estimated six million smokers in the country.
Last week, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek announced that teenagers caught smoking would be fined as part of the new "Tak Nak" initiative.
This ruling is part of an overall anti-smoking regulation that includes the ban of the sale of loose and small packets of cigarettes to reduce access to the young.
Shops and stall are also not allowed to have display cabinets sponsored by tobacco companies. Customs Department internal tax director Mohad Ibrahim Bahari said the Government collected RM270mil in import tax from imported tobacco products sold in duty-free zones last year.
"However, for local tobacco products sold in the zones, the Government does not earn a single sen as there are no excise duty on this products,'' he said.
He said the Government collected RM750mil in excise duty for tobacco products sold in the local market.