We’re not sure if you guys noticed, but Malaysians have quite an interesting affinity with the activity of smoking. Let’s just call it a love-hate relationship la guys.
On one side, you have 4.7 million Malaysians (young and old) who smoke cigarettes and 164,000 Malaysian adults who smoke vapes, and these people would go bonkers if you ever take them away. On the other corner however, you also have many Malaysians who want smoking to be banned, and they’re already working their bontot off to see it through.
The Ministry of Health is now planning to ban smoking at all eateries, along with public and national parks nationwide. Heck, they’re even working to make Malaysia a smoke-free country. Even vapes are caught up in the mix. New legislations are currently underway to regulate vapes based on the existing Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.
So, with all this internal conflict going on among Malaysians in regards to smoking, there was something about smokers that we were curious about, which is, what makes Malaysian smokers unique from smokers of other countries ah???
Well here are 5 facts that show how:
1. Malaysian smokers generate the 2nd BIGGEST illegal cigarette market in Asia
Any time when the word illegal is involved, you just know shizz’ about to get real. It is reported that Malaysia has the 2nd biggest illegal cigarette market in all of Asia, only behind Brunei. To be honest, Brunei is quite a sad case la to say the least.
Illegal cigarettes are basically contraband cigarettes that are supplied, distributed and sold without the authorization of the government. These cigarettes are untaxed and enjoy a lower pricing compared to legitimate, tax paid cigarettes.
Among the famous illegal cigarette brands in Malaysia are Gudang Garam, Dji Sam Soe, and Canyon.
It might not sound all that significant at the surface of things, but the purchase of illicit cigarettes by Malaysian smokers has caused the government to lose approximately RM2bil in taxes annually, funds which could be used for the improvement of Malaysia. Well, that is if you believe the government would use those RM2bils for good in the first place… *1MDB ehem ehem*
Besides tax loss, illegal cigarettes do not go through the health regulations prescribed by the Ministry of Health. There’s a chance that Malaysian smokers might be lighting up cigarettes that are rolled up with dead flies, mould, insect eggs, even HUMAN BERAK CAIR! These cigarettes also contain a higher amount of harmful chemicals that could easily put you to sleep forever, son!
One of the big reasons why many Malaysian smokers consume illegal cigarettes is because many think legitimate cigarettes are too expensive to buy, and because of that, many would resort to the black market to get them as they only cost RM3 to RM5. From there, the name of the game is all about demand and supply. The higher the demand, the higher the supply.
Aside from that, another reason is that Malaysia’s long coast lines make it easy for shipments to be smuggled in from neighbouring countries around South East Asia. Smugglers have also increased their ninja skillz in unloading, storing, and distributing smuggled cigarettes quickly without being caught by Customs officers.
If you guys think the illegal cigarette market is the only thing Malaysian smokers are 2nd in, here’s another one for ya…
2. Malaysian smokers have produced the 2nd BIGGEST vaping industry… IN THE WORLD!
Yes, you read that right. And if your eyes aren’t popping out, go read it again cos this.is.MAJOR.
We’re sure many of you guys have noticed the increasing amount of Malaysian smokers who’ve been using those nifty looking contraptions up above. However, what you guys might have not realized is how large this trend is among Malaysian smokers, because they have paved the way for Malaysia to house the 2nd largest vaping industry in the world.
The only country ahead of us is the United States, and guess what, the population of people over there is 11 times more than the population of Malaysia, and yet, Malaysian smokers are still able to generate a vaping market that almost matches theirs.
To those of you who aren’t familiar with vapes, they are battery-powered devices that emit chemically induced vapors with flavourings. Although vapes and e-cigarettes work in the same way, contrary to popular belief that both of them are one and the same, they are actually 2 different types of products. You can read more on the differences they have over here, but this how both of them look like:
Also, many e-cig flavour cartridges are single-use, so Yay to Malaysians for sustainable smoking!
Because vapes are much more popular in Malaysia, we’ll be concentrating on them. Vapes have garnered a huge following among Malaysian smokers, primarily because it’s seen to be less harmful than cigarettes. Cigarette smokers would pick it up to get themselves to quit cigarettes, whereas non-smokers would give vapes a try because they think it isn’t too damaging.
However, the jury is still out on whether it really is harmful or not. Research has presented us with 2 sides to the story, one being that vapes are safe for people to consume, while the other says that vapes are dangerous if taken without control. So we’d probably have to wait for more studies to be published before making a firm decision on this.
But an additional reason to this phenomenon happening among Malaysian smokers is that vapes are largely unregulated in Malaysia. Malaysia doesn’t really have many laws on vapes and the activity of vaping. Despite that, a trend has been rising recently, calling for vapes to be governed under reasonable policies. Even vapers want this to happen.
The fate of the vape industry in Malaysia will only be determined in the coming future, but for now, we at least know one person who’d prefer cigarettes to vapes anytime of the day.
And with that, we’re back to cigarettes, and another distinguishing characteristic of Malaysian smokers is that…
3. Malaysian smokers pay for the 8th MOST EXPENSIVE cigarettes in Asia
Some readers out there from coutries like Australia or Singapore might think Malaysia is a haven for cheap smokes, but compared to the rest of Asia, we’re actually not that cheap.
The average price of RM12.50 for a pack of cigarettes in Malaysia is the 8th highest pricing in all of Asia, only behind countries like Hong Kong (RM24.30), Japan (RM20.10), Singapore (RM36.80), and a few others. To think it was only a decade ago when cigarettes used to cost around as much as any random Daiso product that you can find~
The main source of agony for all smokers around Malaysia is the excise tax imposed on selected goods like cigarettes, and it’s been increasing drastically from year to year. This has caused tobacco firms to respond by increasing the prices of their cigarettes as means of compensation for the tax.
It kinda explains why there was a big price increase of cigarettes in September 2013 when the government imposed a 14% excise tax hike, resulting to a price increase of RM1.50, and another rise of excise tax in November 2014 boosted the price of cigarettes again by RM1.50. If the government were to increase the price of our roti canais by that much, people would be screaming ‘off with their heads’ by now.
On a serious note though, a tax increase on cigarettes isn’t actually all that bad, that is if you’re a non-smoker who has a personal vendetta against tobacco, because a tax increase is proven to be one of the most efficient way to discourage smokers from buying more cigarettes, and that just puts a big smile on a tobacco hater’s face.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to be stopping male teen smokers from blazing up a cigarette because…
4. Malaysia has one of the HIGHEST percentage of teenage male smokers
We’re certain most of you guys can recall that super nakal group of kids back in school who would sneak to a secret spot somewhere to light up a couple of cigarettes while no one’s looking. Well, that group of kids might actually be larger than expected.
We noticed that Free Malaysia Today’s link to the statistics doesn’t seem to be working, but in their article itself, it is said that 36.3% of schoolboys from the age range of 13 to 15 are smokers, making Malaysia one of the top countries in the world with the highest percentage of teenage smokers in this age pool.
The only countries that have a higher percentage are Federated States of Micronesia (36.9%), Tonga (37.5%) and Timor-Leste (50.6%) and Papua New Guinea (52.1%).
Reports on the article state that there are a couple of reasons to why Malaysian boys can’t keep their hands out the cookie jar.
The first reason is that they buy in to the misconception in which smoking makes you a cool cat around the school, and from that misconception breeds the peer pressure to continue smoking for the sake of being able to maintain their stylo mylo group of friends.
Another big one is the influence of cigarette marketing and advertisements to Malaysian boys. It might be unintentional, but glamorizing cigarettes as a hip and trendy product for adults to buy causes collateral damage towards young boys as they too are exposed to the message and are eventually swayed in to wanting cigarettes themselves.
Also, if a kid just decides one day to say, “Hmm, the weather looks nice this morning. I might just smoke my first cigarette today”, he would probably be able to do that because apparently, cigarettes are easily accessible to kids in Malaysia.
With all that’s said, the next fact we have lined up is quite the opposite to everything we’ve mentioned, seeing that…
5. The percentage of female smokers in Malaysia is one of the LOWEST in the world
This may come as a surprise, but the graph below shows that the percentage of Malaysian women that smoke is well below the percentage of all women that smoke throughout the world. In fact, the number in 2015 is currently at 1.4% for the women that do smoke in Malaysia.
To put it in perspective, 1.4% is among the lowest in the world, only topped by countries in Africa such as Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Congo, Cameroon and Ghana.
Can’t say the same for women in Europe though. They blew their competition out of the water… with smoke… a whole lot of them. France takes the top spot with the highest percentage of female smokers at 28%, and the neighbouring countries around Europe commonly have percentages from the range of 20% and above.
So, while it is true that a low percentage of women smoke in Malaysia, why is it so freakin different compared to the 38% of Malaysian men who smoke?
Well, research done by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the disparity of smoking between males and females in Malaysia (and around the world) is most likely attributed to social and economic factors.
For one, society is more inclined to view females who smoke under a darker light and this prompts Malaysian women to say ‘tak nak’ to any cigarette they come across. Plus, the cigarette industry in Malaysia markets itself more towards men and less towards women, which results to women being less influenced by the idea of smoking.
But Malaysian smokers are bound to change!
While this article concentrates on the current attributes that make Malaysian smokers unique in the global scene, indications show that these traits will soon change in years to come. One interesting factor to this change would be the clash between cigarettes and vapes that continues to redefine the landscape of smoking.
Ever since vapes were introduced to Malaysia, cigarettes have had to take a small scooch over to the side and make way for the rising popularity of vaping. Nowadays, many would suggest smoking vapes instead of cigarettes. You can even hear professionals recommending this. Newer, tastier, safer (at least that’s what the majority believes), vapes have many things going for it while cigarettes simply don’t.
But at the same time, cigarettes have had such a strong hold onto the Malaysian people that it’s hard to imagine vapes causing much harm to it. Vapes have also enjoyed a high degree of leniency by the authorities, and now that plans to regulate vapes are at work, one could argue that they will begin to lose the spark that it presently has.
Whichever side of the argument you’re in, one thing that we can all agree on is that the tide of change awaits Malaysian smokers. Ideally, we can only hope that a more secure method of smoking will come about, because we already have 19,100 people dying from tobacco-caused diseases every year. And if this doesn’t sound bad, it seems like it eventually *will* sound bad, because the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030 unless urgent efforts are made to control the situation.
And while cigarettes are closely linked to these deaths, there’s a possibility that vapes and e-cigarettes could potentially cause some fatal blows themselves. The first death caused by liquid nicotine was reported in the US recently, and this is the same substance you’d find in any vape or e-cigarette that you come across. There have also been instances where vapes would explode in front of their owners from overheating.
Such a bleak future it would be for Malaysian smokers if this is what awaits them. But of course, the future holds no promises for any of us. Yet, at the very least, let’s just make sure that things won’t turn out to be like this…