SEREMBAN - With an estimated 100,000 Malaysians dying every year from smoke-related illnesses, the Government may resort to having each cigarette stick printed with the words Smoking is hazardous to health.
In another drastic move to discourage people particularly the young from picking up the habit, cigarette manufacturers may also be barred from making claims regarding tobacco grade, quality and flavour of their product.
These and other new provisions are likely to be included in the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 when the Government intensifies its enforcement to make public places in the country absolutely smoke-free.
A government source told The Star that the Health Ministry would, in the next two weeks, seek public feedback online on its tough plan to discourage Malaysians from ruining their health through smoking.
The source said the proposed amendments are in line with the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Malaysia 2011 carried out recently, in which 83.5 per cent of the respondents want 100 per cent smoke-free public places.
"Under the ministry's proposal, the words Merokok Membahayakan Kesihatan should be clearly printed on every cigarette stick to remind existing and potential smokers on the dangers of lighting up," the source said.
"With some 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke which, among others, have carcinogenic effects, the ministry also wants the tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes to be further cut," he said.
It is learnt the ministry is proposing for the nicotine levels to be cut from 1.5mg to 1.25mg per stick and from 20mg to 15mg for tar content.
It wants this to be further reduced to 1mg (nicotine) and 10mg (tar) in due course.
The source said tobacco companies have, however, requested that the nicotine levels in cigarettes be reduced to only 1.3mg and tar levels to 15mg from 2014 and to 1mg and 10mg respectively by 2018.
"Also on the cards are provisions to compel manufacturers to increase the size of pictorial health warnings on their packs on the effects of smoking, from at least 40 per cent currently to 50 per cent," the source said.
"The ministry is already looking at the Australian model, where tobacco companies are allowed only to sell their products in plain packaging; thus, being unable to use the strength of their brandname to market their product," he said.
Under the plain packaging method, tobacco companies are not allowed to display their brand colours or logos on the packs.
The source said tobacco companies and importers will also be required to officially write in to the ministry each time they revise the retail price of their product.
"Another amendment states that smokers will also no longer be allowed to light up along the five-foot way or in any covered area which is part of a premises.
"In other words, if there is a perimeter wall outside a building, smokers will not be allowed to light up within the area," he said.