Malaysian health authorities and consumer movement should take a leaf
from the landmark US368.5 billion (RM921.25 billion) settlement by the
US tobacco industry and require local tobacco industry to bear responsibility
for smoking-related diseases as well as to eliminate youth smoking
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday):
The Malaysian health authorities and the consumer movement should take
a leaf from the landmark US368.5 billion (RM921.25 billion) settlement
by the US tobacco industry and require the local tobacco industry to bear
responsibility for smoking-related diseases as well as to eliminate youth
It is time that the tobacco industry is made responsible to contribute
to the costs of health care in the country arising from smoking-related
diseases, especially heart diseases and cancer.
I call on the Cabinet at its meeting on Wednesday to set up a Cabinet
Committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Health, Ministry
of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Chambers
to work out a strategy to convene a conference involving the consumer movement
and the tobacco industry to get the tobacco industry to make a substantial
contribution to the costs of health care arising from smoking-related diseases
as well as to reduce tobacco consumption and to ban all forms of direct
or indirect tobacco advertising.
In this connection, the Education Ministry should reconsider the sponsorship
of the anti-smoking programme in the 1,500 schools by the Confederation
of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers, which appeared to to divert attention
from the real issue to call for a ban on such promotions and sponsorships.
According to a survey conducted in the Klang Valley in 1995 by researchers
from local universities, 71 per cent of young people aged between 13 and
However, would an anti-smoking campaign promoted by the tobacco companies
be counter-productive in the same way that despite the ban on direct advertisements,
the tobacco industry had been able to use sponsorship of sporting activities
to create sub-conscious positive images of the relationship between smoking
and healthy activities.
This is probably why despite the ban on direct advertisement, the tobacco
industry is valued at RM2.9 billion (based on the sales of cigarettes).
The Cabinet Committee to make the tobacco industry responsible for smoking-related
diseases should also end the mixed and confusing signals which the government
has been sending out on the anti-smoking campaign, as for instance:
- In 1993 there was mention of completely banning tobacco company sponsorship
and advertising of live and sporting events.In 1994, the Information Ministry
even said tobacco brand names would be totally absent from live TV events
in six years. The then Deputy Information Minister Railey Jeffery said
if the move diminished RTM's revenue, "we are not profit-minded ...
we prefer to be service-orientated."
- Last January, the Information Ministry told the Health Ministry that
it should be wary of the consequences of enforcing a ban on smoking in
public places because it could jeopardise the livelihood of tobacco farmers
— not to mention the 40 per cent of revenue the country's broadcasting
stations derive from the tobacco industry.
- The retreat from the designation of non-smoking areas in the country.
Under the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations 1993 to ban smoking from
public places in 1994, 18 places — public halls, air-conditioned restaurants,
sports complexes, service counters, transport terminals, institutions of
higher learning, schools, nurseries, kindergartens, airports and state
and federal government premises, among others — were designated non-smoking
areas. This was in addition to hospitals, clinics, public vehicles, entertainment
centres and theatres that had already been gazetted non-smoking zones earlier.
- But this year, after the tobacco companies "gave their views,"
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng backtracked and said entertainment
centres have been de-gazetted and 30 per cent of any air-conditioned restaurant,
public hall, open stadium and transport terminal may be turned into a smoking
*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary
Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member
of Parliament for Tanjong