Saturday September 2, 2017
11:17 PM GMT+8

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SEPTEMBER 2 — I write in response to Ashraf Arshad’s letter which was published on your portal on August 31. As a tax-paying, non-smoking Malaysian, I am appalled that close to 60per cent of the smokers in Malaysia are not paying for their sin tax because they are buying cheap illegal cigarettes. Instead of paying their fair share when they buy legally taxed cigarettes from RM10-RM17 per pack, they opt to buy smuggled cigarettes which are only RM2-RM5.

According to Harian Metro’s report on March 23, 2016, the Customs Department said that the government lost RM4B in tax revenue because of illegal cigarettes. 

RM4B! That’s a lot of money that could be put into good use, especially to fund the healthcare system. In 2016, the Ministry of Health had a 10per cent cut in their budget. Only the appeal of the medical bodies and Malaysians, prevented further cut for 2017, and the Ministry was given a measly RM25B to run the healthcare for all Malaysians, including for those irresponsible 60per cent illegal cigarette smokers who don’t pay their sin tax.

I get that it’s very easy for us to say ban cigarettes in the country. Show me which country has successfully done it. It’s also easy to say we need more enforcement. It’s even easier to say, increase the price of cigarettes, so smokers will quit. Unfortunately, many won’t quit and simply turn to illegal and cheap cigarettes. 

I’m not sure if the small packs will solve the problem but if we don’t try something, sooner or later, the number of illegal cigarettes smokers will continue to grow. If we can make more illegal smokers switch back to legal, or stop legal smokers to turn to illegal cigarettes when the next price increase come around, why not give this a try. 

If they smoke, they must pay their pay share. Why should people who don’t smoke like me, be deprived of my rights to receive critical healthcare such as the all-silent dengue vaccine, which until today, the Ministry of Health has yet to give to the public, when hundreds die each year due to this deadly disease?

If you smoke, you must pay your tax. Period. 

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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