The government has decided to raise cigarette prices once again to curb the nation’s rising cigarette consumption. Using cigarette tax hike as a solution has failed to work Price hikes intensified around the year 2014, and there was a sharp decline of 12% in legalised sale of cigarettes. During the most recent tax hike, prices for a pack of 20 cigarettes rose from RM17 (US$4.02) to RM21.50 (US$5.08). Illicit cigarette trade filled up the gap left by legal sales. Its penetration rate increased from 36.3% in 2011 to 51% in 2016. This resulted in an estimated loss of RM4.4 billion (US$1.06 billion) in government revenue last year. From the year 2011 to 2015, average cigarette prices went up by more than 30% . If the price hikes do deter consumers, there should have been a corresponding decrease in total cigarette consumption. The Malaysian government needs to relook at its future strategies Attempts to minimise the prevalence of smoking failed due to the absence of policies to restrict black market activities. The government had oversimplified the problem by assuming price hikes would decrease the cigarette consumption in lower income families.
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