Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control says tobacco use dropping, but falls short of target

Malaysia is among the 150 countries that have successfully reduced tobacco usage, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Brazil and the Netherlands are seeing success after implementing tobacco control measures, with Brazil making a relative reduction of 35 per cent since 2010, and the Netherlands on the verge of reaching the 30 per cent target.

The ‘WHO global report on trends in prevalence of tobacco use 2000–2030’, which was released today, stated that Malaysia’s tobacco use prevalence trends among people aged 15 years and older fell to 21.6 per cent of the population in 2022, a drop from 29.7 per cent in 2000.

Malaysia’s population today stands at 33.4 million.

The world body estimated the figure would drop to 20 per cent in 2025 and, 18.5 per cent by 2030.

The figures, however, fall short of the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control’s (MCTC) target of 15 per cent by 2025.

Based on the WHO figures, 42 per cent of the Malaysian male population uses tobacco products, while 0.6 per cent of women are users.

Last November, Malaysia passed an Anti-Smoking Bill that forbids the selling of tobacco goods or smoking substances to minors. This includes substitute substances.

In addition, the Bill outlaws minors from using tobacco products or smoking, and lists all chemicals, or combinations of substances used to smoke, as prohibited.

The Bill, however, omitted the generational end game (GEG) policy, which forbade Malaysians born on, or after Jan 1, 2007, from purchasing or ingesting tobacco products.

MCTC secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said scrapping the generational end game in the Anti-Smoking Bill was disappointing.

“It would have helped to reduce the number of smokers in the country in the long run,” said Muhammad Sha’ani.

“We will also continue our fight against vaping as it poses a danger to its users.”

According to WHO, Southeast Asia has the highest percentage of the population using tobacco, at 26.5 per cent, with Europe not far behind, at 25.3 per cent.

“There has been good progress in tobacco control in recent years, but there is no time for complacency. I am astounded at the depths the tobacco industry will go to, to pursue profits at the expense of countless lives,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, director of the WHO Department of Health Promotion.

“We see that the minute a government thinks they have won the fight against tobacco, the industry seizes the opportunity to manipulate health policies and sell their deadly products.”

WHO urged countries to continue implementing tobacco control policies and fight against interference from the tobacco industry.

While the numbers have steadily decreased over the years, the world will make it to a 25 per cent relative reduction in tobacco use by 2025, missing the voluntary global goal of a 30 per cent reduction from the 2010 baseline.

Only 56 countries will reach this goal, down four countries since the last report in 2021.

The prevalence of tobacco use has changed little since 2010 in some countries, while six countries are still seeing a rise in tobacco use – Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Oman, and Moldova.

Country surveys consistently show that children aged 13-15 years in most countries are using tobacco and nicotine products.

To protect future generations and ensure that tobacco use continues to decline, WHO will dedicate this year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ to protecting children from tobacco industry interference.

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