Joseph Janting

MIRI: Sabah and Sarawak governments must take a cohesive and decisive stance against the tobacco black market, said Joseph Janting.

The president of Dayak Transformation Association (Trada) said that illegal cigarettes had taken up to 65 percent of the total market in Malaysia.

Joseph said this staggering figure, as estimated by Euromonitor International, had placed the country at the top of the world for tobacco black market incidences.

“According to the Illegal Cigarettes Study July 2020 conducted by Nielsen, the market share of illegal cigarettes in Sabah and Sarawak is much higher than the national average at 84.2 percent and 86.1 percent respectively.

“Would this mean that these two states are the world’s worst areas for tobacco black market? As a Sarawakian, I feel saddened and deeply concerned by this issue,” he stated.

He added that the acute prevalence of illegal cigarettes was affecting not only the governments and businesses in terms of revenue losses but was also harming the society as the tobacco black market funded criminal activities, encouraged corruption and undermined health.

“Price is clearly the key factor behind this serious problem. Given the price of legal cigarettes are four to five times higher than illegal cigarettes, this naturally incentivises the black market trade which enables illegal cigarettes to corner nearly the entire market.

“A large portion of our society in Sabah and Sarawak is within the lower income segment and experts agree that this group is disproportionately likely to be smokers and consumers of black market products,” he added.

In view of this, Joseph urged the governments of Sabah and Sarawak to work closely with the federal government to address this issue.

“The upcoming Federal Budget 2021 is a good opportunity to put in place measures to 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,” said Joseph.