Ministry to enforce 14-stick cigarette ban ‘soon’

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KUALA LUMPUR: The ban on the 14-stick cigarette pack will be enforced “soon”, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said yesterday.He said the ministry had already sent out the directive to tobacco players.

“The cabinet decided that it will continue with the ban beginning June. We’ve sent out letters (to the manufacturers). It had been decided last week,” Liow told reporters after officiating at an event by the Malaysian Dental Association here.

A check with several outlets selling cigarettes showed that the 14-pack was still freely available despite the ban.

“This is (a) new one. It (has) just arrived,” said a mamak stall operator, referring to a Dunhill 14-stick cigarette pack that was on display on the rack near the counter. The date printed on the pack was June 3, 2010.

Asked if 14-stick packs for other brands were available, the shopkeeper said there were none.

Liow acknowledged that the situation arose because of the “confusion” that had happened earlier, adding that once the health ministry issued a directive to manufacturers, they would have to abide by it.

“We are not taking action now because of the confusion that arose earlier. We’ll be taking action soon,” Liow said, without giving a specific deadline.

He was referring to the government’s earlier decision to defer the ban on small packs pending a study by the cabinet.

It was earlier reported that the government would delay the ban on small packs from the original scheduled implementation date of June 1, 2010 to Jan 1, 2011, and that the ban had been put on hold pending a study by the health ministry. That decision was later reversed.

According to an earlier report in The Edge Financial Daily, British American Tobacco (BAT) remains the market leader in the 14–stick-pack segment, with some analysts placing its market share at around 40%.

Two other players, JT International Bhd and Phillip Morris (M) Sdn Bhd, had come out strongly to voice their objection to the government’s decision to defer the ban, with the latter even threatening to sue the health ministry.

Analysts expected BAT to be most affected by the ban on the small pack due to its higher margin.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, June 11, 2010.