British American Tobacco (M) Bhd (BAT) has refuted allegations that the cigarette industry’s proposal to reintroduce smaller packs known as “kiddie pack cigarette” is intended to increase the number of smokers in the country.

It said the industry wanted to reduce the volume of illegal cigarettes by providing a legal alternative to them, but the idea had been taken out of context.

“While we respect the fact that there would be varying views on the proposed reintroduction of small packs ranging from supportive to strong opposing views, we strongly object to false allegations being made against the intent of the industry in supporting the reintroduction of small packs,” BAT was cited as saying by The Edge yesterday.

“It must be stressed that it is the very sizeable presence of illegal cigarettes in Malaysia that is the main factor frustrating and undermining the health agenda in Malaysia,” it added.

Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam said on Thursday that the government would not support the proposal to allow “kiddie packs”.

He said the proposal was just an excuse by industry lobbyists who claimed the move could check cigarette smuggling which had caused a rise in the number of smokers in the country.

He also said if the government agreed to the move, it would be against the National Tobacco Policy and Article 8 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Critics objecting to the proposal claim that legalised “kiddie packs” would entice and appeal to children as they would be priced cheaply, packaged attractively and displayed prominently at retail outlets.

BAT said the scourge of illegal cigarettes had increased in Malaysia despite the ban imposed on small packs in 2010.

“The problem has grown too big to rely on enforcement alone, so the small pack proposal comes from an alternate perspective to address the demand side of the issue,” it said.

“If there are new robust ideas on how to eradicate the black market speedily and effectively, we hope that it (kiddie packs) will be put forth for consideration because clearly, the cigarette black market growth has outpaced all enforcement and education efforts.”

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