Trada: Sabah and Sarawak govts urged to tackle tobacco black market

Cigarettes. — file pic. //Photo: Pixabay

MIRI, Oct 26:  A youth and community advocacy group today urges the respective state governments of Sabah and Sarawak to take a cohesive and decisive stance against the tobacco black market to protect businesses as well as communities from the wide-ranging negative impact associated with this illicit trade.

The comments from Pertubuhan Transformasi Dayak or Dayak Transformation Association (Trada) came following news reports that Malaysia is No. 1 in the world when it comes to incidences of tobacco black market.

“Illegal cigarettes have taken up 65 per cent of the total market in Malaysia today, as estimated by Euromonitor International. This placed our country at the top of the world for tobacco black market incidences.

“Unfortunately, studies have also shown that the market share of illegal cigarettes in Sabah and Sarawak is much higher than the national average, at 84.2 per cent in Sarawak and 86.1 per cent in Sabah, according to the Illegal Cigarettes Study July 2020 conducted by Nielsen.

“Does this mean these two states are the world’s worst areas for the tobacco black market? As a Sarawakian, I feel saddened and deeply concerned by this issue,” said Trada president Joseph Janting in a press statement today.

According to Joseph, the acute prevalence of illegal cigarettes within a community not only impacts governments and businesses in terms of revenue loss, it also harms society as the tobacco black market funds criminal activities, encourages corruption and undermines health.

“We are exposing our youth and kids to criminal elements and bad habits by allowing illegal cigarettes to flourish in our states.

“Clearly, price is the key factor behind this serious problem. A large portion of our society in Sabah and Sarawak is within the lower income segment. Experts agree that this group is disproportionately likely to be smokers and disproportionately likely to be consumers of black market products.

“Given the price of legal cigarettes are four to five times higher than illegal cigarettes, this naturally incentivises black market trade, enabling illegal cigarettes to corner nearly the entire market,” he explained.

In view of this, Trada has urged the Sarawak and Sabah State governments to work closely with the Federal Government to address this issue in a multi-pronged and multi-lateral manner.

This, he said, included re-looking at excise duties and taxation policies that make legal cigarettes unaffordable, providing more resources to fortify our borders as well as establishing a dedicated consumer education fund aimed at discouraging Sabah and Sarawak consumers from buying black market products.

“The upcoming Federal Budget 2021 is a good opportunity to put in place measure that can tackle this endemic issue with greater urgency and comprehensiveness. Sabah and Sarawak must break the tobacco black market stranglehold to safeguard the welfare of its citizens and protect economic growth,” Joseph concluded.

Trada is a youth and community advocacy group which aims to see Malaysian youth as well as the Dayak community throughout Malaysia embrace knowledge and technology in a comprehensive manner so as to ensure a brighter and more inclusive future. —DayakDaily