Friday August 31, 2012
Make ‘tak nak’ meaningful
BUDGET 2013 will be announced soon and all eagerly await the details to be spelled out.
As usual all sectors will be covered, touching all citizens one way or another. Nevertheless, one area of interest to watch is whether the Government will take a more hard-hitting approach in tackling cigarette smoking among Malaysians.
Despite multi-pronged measures by government agencies over the years, we have fallen flat in addressing the ever-increasing use of tobacco. Various campaigns costing millions in taxpayers’ money by the Health Ministry has not been translated into anything that can be regarded as successful.
All this comes to the conclusion that ultimately it is the smokers themselves that need to change their attitude and habits. No amount of external coaxing or pressure can or will work on their mentality of smoking.
Smoking cessation clinics, “Tak nak” roadshows and many other activities have basically run out of steam in a short period, as we do not see significant results benefiting society. I wonder how the sales of tobacco products had been compromised during the various campaigns.
What tangible results have emerged after spending all the money in cutting tobacco consumption in Malaysia? In our NKRA system, all activities must have measurable KPIs and presented to the public to gauge the effectiveness of a programme.
Unfortunately, we have not witnessed any thus far in our anti-smoking campaigns! Has there been any index-linked activity to the campaigns? It would be interesting to know if the Health Ministry had been able to reduce the costs in health care for smoking-related illnesses within a particular period.
It is high time the relevant agencies and departments take the matter a notch higher and tackle the problem with more draconian regulations to curb the use of tobacco among Malaysians. One of the major concerns relates to enforcement.
Despite various laws prohibiting smoking in many places, we see this rule flouted almost everywhere. A good example are restaurants; which blatantly ignore directives and more often than not allow their patrons to smoke.
Smoking in any eatery must be prohibited entirely, and those breaking the rule must be dealt with severely. Heavy fines should be imposed on the smoker and the outlet must be fined nothing less than RM1,000.
Beyond that, revoke their licences for at least three months. Maybe then we can see some positive outcomes. I have witnessed smokers puffing away happily with no regard to Government office areas, especially in car parks. What are the guards doing?
It is an opportune time for the Government to increase the price of cigarettes to at least RM30 to RM40 per box of 20’s. Only when smokers really feel the pinch of forking out that much, that they may consider quitting altogether.
Shocking the supply system will definitely have a positive outcome. Let us not fool ourselves by gradual increments in pricing, as that has surely failed and in fact gets buffered in a very short time among smokers. A sudden jolt will push their family members to pressure them to quit.
Addiction to tobacco-related products seems to be taken for granted, as it had long been accepted that smoking is a casual act and accepted by the public generally.
Nonetheless, medically it has taken a toll on our health system. If we do not curb it urgently, we may as well accept a losing battle and not waste public money any longer.
On the contrary, a smoker must be made to pay a premium upon admission for any smoke-related illness. Fear tactics may work well in the short to long term.
The current ruling of banning brand names on cigarette packs like in Australia may not work in many societies. Brand loyalty to cigarettes is beyond visuals on the pack.
There are many factors integrated in choosing a brand and not merely the name embossed on the pack. Nevertheless, let’s see if there is any positive impact of such a law in Australia.
NARINDER PAL SINGH