Smoking in Malaysia

I have to applaud the Malaysian government for trying to promote a healthier society with it’s current Anti-Smoking programs.

Firstly, over the years, cigarette prices kept increasing every year when we review our annual budgets. From when I started smoking 14 years ago, cigarettes were RM 3.70 for a pack of 20s. Now I buy a pack at RM 9. That’s more than doubled. The prices keeps going up, of course. But I am thankful that I can still stock up duty-free ciggies at RM 50 for 10 packs of 20s.

Recent review I read though, it seems this has not imapcted the sale of cigarettes as much. Of course, it helps deter the first time smokers like kids and all, but hard core smokers like myself – I’m not batting an eyelid. However, in Singapore and Europe, brands like Marlboro and Dunhill are ridiculously pricey. It’s almost a luxury to smoke. (And I am not trying to make this sound glamorous).

Secondly, we have stopped cigarette companies from public advertising. They’re immediately pulled from all print advertising on newspapers and magazines. Then, they’re taken off the airwaves on TV commercials. As if that’s not difficult enough for these guys, they’re also not allowed to promote events. This means all football and sports sponsorships. So, they started to advertised in closed events like dance clubs, raves, concerts, etc. Shortly, even that was banned. Now, cigarette companies can organise their oen dance functions but no branding is allowed in those events. A Kent / Mild 7 rave will have their company’s blue colours throughout the venue, but no mention of the brand name whatsoever.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing. Not that Advertising has been much of an influence to someone like me, anyways. But I am quie sure it hurts the overall ADEX (Advertising spend) of the Malaysian market. Also, it makes cigarette companies plan their spend much better.

Thirdly, they start implementing no-smoking in air-conditioned areas. That was in place for shopping malls (with the exception of Sungai Wang, I don’t know why) for awhile now. The extension of this ban to restaurants and hotels. There used to be smoking sections at most restaurants and hotel lobbies, now that is not the case. Thankfully, we live in a rather hot country that allows alot of al-fresco dining and drinking. So naturally, these outdoor areas are turned into smoking areas. Unlike Europe, we’re not shivering under the cold temperature, so that’s fine for most smokers. For bars and clubs, however, this is not implemented and with the shockingly poor ventilation at these places, the secondhand smoke gets intolerable sometimes.

I am still thankful that we’re not as strict as Singapore on this rule. In Singapore, smokers are now made like outcasts. You can’t just smoke anywhere even outdoors. At bars and clubs, it’s even no-smoking when you’re sitting outside. You have dedicated smoking areas outside. They have a tiny little 2 X 2 feet box with an ashtray that you can stand and smoke. You can’t just walk and smoke or… God forbid, step out of your smoking “box”.
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Fourthly, we recently started including really gruesome and gross warning images on our cigarette packaging. This was a laughing matter when Singapore implemented this for Malaysians. We were enjoying image-free packaging and we mock our neighbours. Now, we have to live with really ugly cancer, dead foetus and other horrible images. I even have a friend who can live with some of the foot images and stuff but not the dead baby. So she picks packaging with pictures she can handle.

Also, this effort increases the sale of el-cheapo cigarette boxes. Cigarette companies also start selling their own metal boxes so people can transfer their ciggies to a nicer looking box. I have one chrome one that I have received compliments for, as well. Not bad for a RM 30 purchase. Actually, with my duty-free cigarettes, I don’t have the problem of the disgusting images. \

Although, I did hear that even duty-free ciggies have the warning images.
Lastly, also the fact that the government has spent a lot of money on their Anti-Smoking campaign. Mostly targeted at the youth to stop beingthe new generation of smokers in the country. The “Tak Nak” (translation : Don’t Want) campaign has been quite well known and (I hope) has been very effective for the new generation.

I have a few friends who have successfully quit smoking. At the beginning of the year, you will always come across a few people who have put “Quit Smoking” on their list of New Year’s Resolution. But very often, these resolution never succeeds. I am not saying that they are doomed to fail, but successful changes like these are mostly done out of sheer willpower on no special ocassions.

Geoff, for example, have stopped smoking for about 2 weeks now. We both attempted this at the start of this year. I bought nicotine patches and inhalors. They’re not cheap, mind you. While I was sucking on the “straw”, Geoff broke the pact by smoking a pack on a drinking outing on a Thursday night.

This time round, he was down with the flu. He was coughing alot and was just not enjoying his cigarettes as much. So he stopped for a few days while he was ill. When he was recovering, he just didn’t pick it up again. Now, it’s almost 2 weeks and he’s doing good. He’s starting to eat healthier and exercising again, so it helped him with his overall goal. His biggest test – drinking – was successful, too. He was tempted to pick a ciggie up but his willpower was strong enough. Also chewing a straw helped.

Despite what he’s telling you – I wasn’t tempting him or pushing cigarettes at him. I just roll my eyes at him and wish him the best. I have seen these attempts many times before. Well, let’s just say, I wish him good luck.

Personally, I might quit one day. I am averaging a pack of 20s a day. Sometimes more if it’s a stressful day. Or a sleepy day. I tell myself I will quit one day. I think that day will be when I conceive. We are not planning for a baby until maybe, 2 years from now. So, no real motivation now. I know that people tell me that I should quit when we’re trying for a better chance of conceiving. Again, not trying now. So no need to quit yet.

Of course, everyone (non-smokers) around me tell me that it’s healthier and I should just quit, generally. I know. As an intelligent person, I know the consequences and the effects of smoking on myself. But I believe that it all boils down to sheer personal motivation and willpower. Right now, if I don’t want to quit – even if I try to quit, I won’t sustain.

Geoff could be a motivator and might be able to help me quit now that he has stopped himself. I might join one day. I MIGHT….

I am not that bad or that hard core of a smoker. I might quit one day. Also, my past attempts when I was younger, I had very bad withdrawal symptoms. I was tearing and had running nose when I went cold turkey. But recently, I am better. I can survive a long haul flight without smoking. It’s good.

I believe there’s 2 categories of smokers. Either it’s an addiction or it’s habit. If it’s addiction, the nicotine patches, gums and inhalors might help. These feeds you with your daily dose of nicotine. Although, I did hear that smoking with a patch is nicer. I have also heard that smoking with a patch gives you nicotine overdose and you can pass out or vomit.

If it’s a habit, I know of fake cigarettes that you can buy. It’s shaped of a cigarrete but you just don’t light it. This is helpful for people who automatically reach for a cigarette after a meal or when drinking. This fake cigarette helps that you’re holding something in your hand and combats the habit of reaching or lighting a real one. It’s true for me sometimes, I chain smoke sometimes for the sake of having a ciggie in my hand.

What kind of smoker are you? Addicted to nicotine or just a force of habit? I am a cross between addiction and habit. That’s why I can’t go cold turkey, I have to cut down and out. I have had way too much advise to quit already. If you’re planning to comment and tell me to go ahead and quit – I should stop you just there. If you scroll up a little, you will know that I will quit when I want to. I need to build my own motivation and willpower. Not peer pressure.

I don’t think it’s that bad of a habit anyways. It could be worse – I could be a druggie, an alkie (that’s alcoholic). I only have this one bad vice.

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