Asia Minute: Cutting Smoking Rates in Southeast Asia

Mar 16, 2016

Credit Mike Mozart / Flickr

A study out this week shows that quitting smoking cold turkey is the most effective method of kicking the habit.  For many, that process can be helped by nicotine patches, acupuncture and other aids.  Governments can also play a role—whether that’s raising the legal smoking age as Hawai‘i has—or taking a different approach as authorities are doing in Southeast Asia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Just a few years ago, about half of adult males in Malaysia were smokers.  The World Health Organization says smoking doubled among residents between the 1970’s and 1995.  There have been declines since then, but Malaysia’s government wants to reduce the number of smokers by 30-percent over the next 9 years, and has created a National Strategic Plan for Tobacco Control.

Cigarette taxes have gone up, and so have smoking restrictions.  Malaysia is also the biggest market in the Asia Pacific for electronic cigarettes—or “vaping.”  In fact, according to a trade association, Malaysia is the second biggest market in the world for e-cigarettes---trailing only the United States.  The use of e-cigarettes has now been banned in several states in Malaysia.

As for tobacco, the government announced this week that it would ban smoking in all hotels in the country by the end of the year.  Neighboring Singapore has a much lower smoking rate—about 13% of the population, and has had tighter restrictions against smoking for many years.

This week, lawmakers took one more step—as parliament voted to ban even the display of cigarettes or cigarette advertising in stores….a law that takes effect next year.