PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry will recommend that the minimum cigarette price for a pack of 20 be set at RM5 to discourage a price war and smoking.
This comes as the ministry discovered through its anti-smoking Jom Tak Nak campaign that 12-year-olds have taken up smoking.
Parliamentary secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon said some tobacco firms were selling certain brands of cigarettes below cost to attract teenagers.
While tax on a pack of 20 is currently at RM3, some are selling them at RM3.50 or RM3.80.
This is too low. We are going to recommend this minimum price (RM5) so that tobacco manufacturers are not using artificial means to reduce the price of their cigarette packs, he told reporters after launching the ministrys Healthy Lifestyle campaign.
There are some three million smokers in the country, 30% of whom are between 16 and 18.
Asked if the minimum price was too low, Lee said the ministry did not want the tobacco companies to reap too much profit.
Another fear is that too high a minimum price will lead to cigarette smuggling into the country, he said, adding that the ministry was studying the possibility of asking for another tax increase on cigarettes for the coming Budget.
Lee said that the ministry was concerned that youths were continuously being exposed to subtle forms of cigarette advertising.
This includes watching their favourite actors or actresses smoking in movies as well as the message that it will help keep their bodies slim, he said.
For the Healthy Lifestyle campaign this year, Lee said the main focus would be anti-smoking, the encouragement for businesses, particularly restaurants, to adopt smoke-free premises, and the launching of the telephone infoline 03-8883 4400.