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For decades, Malaysia has severe problems with cigarette-smoking issues (Mackay 1996). Currently, smoking has been recognized as the major drug killer in Malaysia, bringing with its huge human and economic costs. As a result, afflictions caused by cigarette smoking have taken the lives of around 3,500 Malaysian citizens in each year (Facts About Tobacco & Smoking 2008). There are 3 types of smokers, namely social smokers, casual smokers and chain smokers. The Malaysian government enforces laws to reduce smoking rates so that Malaysian citizens can enjoy healthy lifestyles.
Cigarette smoking accounts for a massive 25% of all deaths in Malaysia, with smoking-related deaths making up of three out of five of the top causes of death in Malaysia (Mackay 1996). In addition, a research shows that the percentages of lung cancer incidents have been increased at a rate of 17% a year (Smoking Statistics 2002). According to the result of a survey on cigarette smoking rates in Malaysia, there were 3.6 million smokers in the year 2000. Nevertheless, the number is expected to rise dramatically by 2025. It was also found that about 49% of Malaysian males smoked cigarettes in the year 2000 while the number will be expected to reduce by 30% by the year 2025. By 2025, it is estimated that 4% of all Malaysian women who smoke cigarettes are those of 15 years of age and above. The research also shows that most of the smokers start smoking in their youth. Therefore, it is clear that the smoking rates are the highest among the younger generations (Prostar n.d.).
The aim of this research is to identify the different types of smokers and evaluate the effectiveness of law implementation on cigarette smoking by the Malaysian government in order to reduce smoking rates and possibly to ban smoking in Malaysia for the benefit of Malaysians’ health.
A survey was conducted to collect the data about the different types of smokers’ namely social smokers, casual smokers, chain smokers and the opinions of smokers towards cigarette smoking with a questionnaire. A sample of 20 participants between 11 and 50 years old was taken for this survey.
Social smokers are defined as people who smoke mainly or only in social settings and in the presence of others (New Straits Times 1997). Social smokers are also known as “occasional smokers” (Morley et.al 2006). In addition, social smokers are much more likely to have relatives or friends who smoke than those who have never smoked. Figure 1 above indicates that 27% of smokers are social smokers.
Casual smokers are defined as people who smoke on many but not all days and also smokers who know how to control on their smoking, going from smoking daily to only smoking occasionally (New Straits Times 1997). Based on the research, it was found that only 9% of smokers are casual smokers (Figure 1). Therefore, the problem with casual smokers is that they do not think that they are addicted. They think that they can switch their desire to smoke on and off and that they have a full control over whether or not they want to smoke (Turner 2008).
Chain smokers are also known as addicted smokers who smoke in a ‘chain’ of cigarettes, one after another. Chain smoking is the practice of lighting a new cigarette immediately after one is finished, sometimes using the previous cigarette to light the next one. It is a sign of addiction and gives the smokers a constant source of nicotine that allows smokers to feel a sense of calmness (Windale n.d.). Based on the survey, 64% of the smokers are chain smokers which contribute the largest number of smokers in this survey (Figure 1).
The tobacco industry has contributed to the country’s major economy in terms of employment (be it in manufacturing, agricultural and health sectors), earnings, exports and taxes (The Economics of Tobacco Policy n.d.). It was shown that RM1.8 million in indirect taxes and RM683 million in corporate taxes had contributed into Malaysian government revenue. Based on a research, it was indicated that 7.8% of the Malaysian government’s income tax revenue was contributed by indirect taxes from the tobacco industry while approximately 3% of the Malaysian government’s income tax revenue was derived from corporate taxes within the tobacco industry.
Based on the relief survey conducted in figure 2, 38% of the smokers consume tobacco to relieve their stress. Therefore, cigarette smoking is one of the stress management tools for those who suffer from work-related stress as well as family-related stress. A cigarette contains over 4000 different chemicals which could cause cancer (Healey 2001). The poisonous and addictive drug in tobacco which is nicotine could reduce smokers’ stress levels and it could increase heart rates up to 21 beats per minute and also stimulates the nervous system to make the smokers feel a sense of relief or relaxation (Healey 2001). Besides, smoking creates a numerous conditions that could help the smokers with anxiety and depression (Smoking and mental health 2007).
It is found that nicotine in cigarettes may improve memory and prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Other than that, it is proven that nicotine can help in improving learning ability and memory problems associated with hypothyroidism. In addition, Victorian doctors also recommended smoking as a means of sharpening the wits and boosting concentration (Derbyshire 2008). Based on the survey conducted, 43% of the smokers feel that smoking cigarettes can help them to improve their memory (Figure 2).
In Malaysia, lung cancer is now an increasingly significant cause of death. It is classified as the most common cancer caused by cigarette smoking in Malaysia. Based on the 2003 National Cancer Registry of Malaysia report, lung cancer accounts for 13.8% and 3.8% of all cancers in males and females respectively. To be more precise, Malaysia has faced 1,758 cases of Malaysians who are diagnosed with lung cancer annually in 2003(Acting against lung cancer 2006).
According to Tobacco Control, the research shows that cigarette smoke usually produces more air pollution as compared to the diesel car exhaust. From the scientific research, it shows that a cigarette contains over 4000 different chemicals including many toxic substances (Healey 2001). Therefore, the cigarette can create air pollution, the cigarette buds are also a major blow to the environment hygiene (Impact of Butt Littering n.d.). In addition, cigarette smoke also causes potential fire hazards if the lighting cigarette is not put out immediately (Slovenian Young Minds n.d.). In addition, about 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults each year are caused by the exposure of tobacco smoke from smokers. Also, an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections is recorded in infants and young children whose parents smoke in their presence.
The Malaysian government has tried to curb smoking among Malaysians by implementing the Control of Tobacco Products Regulation in 1993. This regulation was enforced in 1993 under the Food Act 1993, which all direct advertising and sponsorship are prohibited as well as the requirement of fixed health warnings, and also ceiling levels of tar (20mg) and nicotine (1.5mg) are displayed(Tobacco Unit Malaysia 2003). Besides, smoking restrictions are applied at public places and specific places such as air-conditioned places. Those places are normally set as “no smoking zones” while tobacco sales to any person under the age of 18 years old is strictly prohibited. This regulation is also amended to strengthen the restriction towards the total ban of tobacco-related promotions, the requirements of more effective health warnings, and the limitation to the availability of cigarettes, and the lowering of tar and nicotine levels in order to extend the existing “non smoking zone”.
This act will be replacing The Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 1993 to be the prominent comprehensive legislation for tobacco control in Malaysia. The function of this act is to fit in all relevant provisions and country obligations stated in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (Tobacco Unit Malaysia 2003).
According to the Maybank Investment Bank Berhad, raising taxes on tobacco is one of the most effective ways of reducing the amount of people who smoke. Therefore, the Malaysian Government has taken steps to increase the tobacco taxes by at least 11 per cent in 2009 in order to discourage smoking among Malaysians and cuts its budget (Malaysia may raise tobacco taxes n.d.). Â Meanwhile, the Malaysian government also tends to raise cigarette’s price by 40% (World Health Organization 2008). Albeit the decision of the Malaysian government has diminished demand of smokers but government revenues need were not affected.
The advertisements and promotions of smoking or tobacco products should be restricted in Malaysia. In Malaysia, some restrictions have been implemented for the descriptive labeling of cigarettes, such as “lights”, “ultra lights”, “low tar” or “mild” on their packaging. Besides that, cigarette manufacturers are forbidden from promoting cigarettes (Government puts the squeeze on cigarette makers 2008). Therefore, to argue against the cigarette advertisements, the Malaysian government has intervened to introduce anti-smoking campaign to promote the dangers of smoking by placing advertisements during prime time warning. Based on statistics, it was indicated that among 4 million smokers, 1,000 smokers died due to tobacco-related diseases every year. In this case, the Malaysian government had implemented all kinds of legislation to reduce the percentages of death from tobacco-related diseases.
Diagram 1: Samples of health warning on cigarette packages
The Malaysian government has amended the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations 2004 on World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), May 31 to urge tobacco manufacturers to display health warnings on cigarette packages. The health warnings such as lung cancer, mouth diseases, heart diseases and unhealthy infants’ graphics should be displayed on cigarette packages to warn smokers of the consequences of smoking (Health Ministry’s tobacco rules get thumbs-up 2008). In addition, all packages are required to include pictorial warnings that could cover 40% of the front of the packages and 60% of the back of the package (Government puts the squeeze on cigarette makers 2008).
More effective actions should be taken by the Malaysian government to ban smoking in public areas such as hospitals, clinics, public lifts, toilets, air-conditioned restaurants, public transport, government premises, educational institutions, petrol stations, internet cafes and shopping complexes. Heavy fines could be an alternative to punish those who smoke in public areas. Besides, the Malaysian government could include the reinforcement of rules and regulations on smokers who continue to smoke. Even though tobacco contributes significant tax revenues to Malaysian government, we should also be aware of the increasing costs on health care to curb health problems derived from smoking. We cannot totally ban smokers from smoking cigarettes, our government should play a leading role to educate all generations about the negative effects of smoking. Incentives and taxes should be imposed to curb health problems such as heart diseases and lung cancer. Therefore, the Malaysian government should enforce tougher laws on tobacco smoking in order to have healthier Malaysian.
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