But it seems that it is not high enough.
Therefore, out of concern not only for the health of the people but also for increasing health costs, the government is considering increasing the cost of a packet of cigarettes from RM17 to RM21.50.
But will such an increase jar smokers to the reality of the opportunity cost of continuing their habit vis a vis their allocation for necessities and other essentials?
Past experience in the price increase of cigarettes has shown it is not a deterrence to smoking.
Such an increase, if it comes about, will not impact much on higher income employees but would adversely affect the lower income group which forms the bottom billion who are already reeling from the ever spiralling cost of living.
Diehard smokers discount or ignore the hazards of smoking. No amount of graphic representations on the cigarette box to warn of possible health hazards and even the words ‘smoking kills’ will frighten them enough to quit smoking. They are in for the long haul.
Periodically raising cigarette prices may not curb smoking at all but could encourage smokers to source for cheaper substitutes, which may be more hazardous.
This would increase the demand for contraband cigarettes.
In the final analysis, the government will be on the losing end – greater health problems and lost revenue from the sale of legal tobacco. It will certainly create resentment among the lower income group.
Smoking starts as a socialising element among teenagers and later develops into an addictive habit.
Teenage smokers are attracted by the social and entertainment culture that condones and encourages this habit.
The best way to stop them is to educate the younger generation on the dangers of smoking.
It is equally important to progressively dismantle the environment that encourages smoking and other addictive socialising activities.
Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin