Smoking = go to jail?

underage smoking

Yeah, I’m talking about tobacco! I was watching this expose on cigarettes in an episode of VICE on HBO and realized that the place they’re talking about (Indonesia) could very well be in Malaysia! I’ve actually spent a couple of years in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and the trade in illegal cigarettes there is really bad.

It’s causing a lot of young kids to smoke…just like in the documentary, children as young as 6 years old are starting to smoke on a daily basis and no one stops them coz illegal cigarettes are not regulated! A lot of these cigarettes are sold by vendors with no operating licence anyway so they don’t care who they sell to.

kids smoking

Small children can afford the price of these illegal cigarettes since they’re so cheap compared to the premium legal brands. This causes health problems as well as social problems. The Ministry of Health’s Dr. Chong has also talked in length about the danger of kretek (clove) cigarettes in this New Straits Times article.

The predominant brand there at the time is JOHN (RM 2.50) but there are others like GG, Manchester, Canyon, Luffman etc. It’s usually sold by immigrants and those cigarettes tastes nasty. I was in a facility at the time and this was all that they could get.

I think I did more damage to my lungs in that time than ever before. These illegal cigarettes are not made to the exact specifications of the premium legal brands like Marlboro, Dunhill etc and some of them, I hear, are scraps of tobacco and other detritus just packaged together and sold as is – caveat emptor!

Any pack of cigarettes that is sold below RM 7 is illegal. That is the minimum price set by the government and crime syndicates brings in these illegal cigarettes for sale via various points around Malaysia. I know that Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is a large distribution center and this leads to a lot of illegal activity, gangs, and the revenue from this funds a huge criminal enterprise and there’s an article on NST that ties the illegal cigarette trade as a smokescreen for gangs.

Crime syndicates nowadays rely on a lot of revenue streams and besides the classic triad of prostitution, drugs and racketeering, the “lower risk high reward” items are still illegal alcohol and cigarettes (besides gambling) which can really bring a lot of harm to society. I come from a small town with a large gang problem (which was helped somewhat with the original Operasi Cantas Kenyalang) so I know first hand what crime syndicates will do to a town.

I’ve never the urge to purchase illegal cigarettes as they taste foul but I know some people do it coz of cost concerns. However, there’s a nationwide crackdown on illegal cigarettes now and not just retailers, but consumers i.e. YOU can go to jail if you’re caught buying illegal cigarettes.

smoking cartoon

Don’t support criminal enterprises – just like I never buy illegal lottery tickets (there’s the risk of not getting returns) I don’t ever buy illegal cigarette brands like JOHN, GG, Manchester, Canyon, Luffman etc. It’s not just coz they taste bad but smokers can be jailed up to 2 years and/or fined RM 10,000 if caught in possession of illegal cigarettes.

…and that’s no joke!

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28 thoughts on “Smoking = go to jail?”

  1. That’s sad to see kids smoking. They are just ignorant and some follow their peers as well as parents , who.are just ignorant. I hope ngo or the gov do something to it before wrecking their health. And , more these are counterfeit cigarettes.

    • Yeah, I saw that on Vice on HBO.

      They were doing a show on Indonesia, which has an almost unregulated cigarettes industry. I think a lot of our illegal cigarettes comes from there too.

  2. I wish our government ban all cigarettes !!!!

    Okay.. I know i’m being naive and this will never happen.. just.. wishing upon the sky.. hahaha..

    • Haha! I think there’s only one country in the entire history of the world that has banned cigarettes. 🙂

      I don’t know any other country except Bhutan who does it.

      • Here in brunei, we’ve pretty much banned it. Yep. As of last year, you cant buy them from stores like in the good old days. Mini markets and super markets used to have a vast collection of smokes and were cheap as chips. As the years went by, prices rose and choices became less and eventually it reached a point that only 4 brands were being sold(and at a total of 3 shops in the entire country). Now, as mentioned earlier, nada, nothing, zilch. and your only choice is to go malaysia buy and smuggle them in yourself or buy from suppliers. Suppliers mostly have nasty ass presumably counterfeit/illegal ERA/Extreme cigarettes. Very few carry “proper” brands.

        So we end up with a situation where: More money going out of our country, people who sell these cigs run the risk of getting caught and imprisoned/fined, and, possibly supporting criminals by buying these fake nasty ass smokes. Its sad whats happening to this country.

  3. Hey dude, I have smoked almost every damn thing under the sun to get me high from Penang to UK and USA, just like the other party animals. I managed to stop all this nonsese and alcohol consumption for 15 years now. I hope you get my hint!

    I do know those cheap brands used other inferior tobacco leaves with rumours that some old tobacco tree barks were added with other tribal leaves too. Those many legal brands in China like Panda, Aeroplanes, Great Wall and what craps that were popular during cultural revolutions also tasted like exhaust pipes to me!! Adoi…. Cough! Cough!

    I always wished cigarettes would be banned totally! My boss has died of lung cancer in May but everyone else here are still chasing dragons without slightest worries. Life goes on la…..

    • Sorry to hear about your boss mate!

      Wow! Haha! Even I dare not say that since there are new substances that can get you high constantly being discovered EVERY SINGLE DAY, but I can say that I have smoked *most* common substances like cannabis, methamphetamine, heroin, hard to get stuff like crack and PCP and even the relatively rare research chemicals like AMT, DMT, 5-MeO-MIPT etc but have quit every single one of them too.

      Yeah, I have heard of those China illegal cigarettes before, they’re even sold now in Sarawak, at least two of the brands. I agree, they taste like crap, and more importantly, they’re illegal – there’s a crackdown on illegal cigarettes now.

  4. That reminds me of the research I did for my Critical Analysis presentation for Media Arts. My team mates and I were aghast to watch a video of a young Indonesian toddler smoking up to 40 sticks of cigarette/tobacco a day. =O

    If only the Health Department can do something to address the rising occurrence of teenage smokers. =/ I know too many students from campus who are chain smokers, lighting up the cigarette without caring much for their health, much less their lungs.

    • Yeah, I saw that too! 🙂

      It was a baby boy right? A chubby baby boy.

      I can’t imagine how his parents let him smoke but like everything in Indonesia (as I learnt in the documentary) it’s every generation – the parents smoke so they can’t control their kids and the cigarettes are sold so cheap over here.

      We in Malaysia have relatively good legislation regarding tobacco compared to some countries.

    • Yeah, I think it’s a phase.

      That’s why cigarettes have a minimum price here – to avoid it from being affordable by kids. Remember back in the days you can get a 7 cigarette pack for RM 1.40? Those days are over.

    • Yeah, that’s in Indonesia! 🙂

      We have a limit on cigarette price here, it must be RM 7 or it’s illegal. Indonesia has no tobacco legislation, I even saw packs of 4 being sold there for less than RM 1!

    • Good on ya! 🙂

      Statistics says that if a person doesn’t start smoking by 25, they never will. However, there are exceptions though, especially in some industries.

    • Congrats mate! 🙂

      Well, at least our government is doing a lot to discourage new smokers by minimum pricing (RM 7), no small packs (have seen 4-packs in Indonesia, we had 7-packs in the past, that was in the late 1980’s), and introducing fines and jail terms for possession of cheap illegal cigarettes.

      It’s certainly a step in the right direction.

    • I think it’s also the lack of regulation in Indonesia! 🙂

      They really don’t regulate cigarettes, lots of our illegal cigarettes from from across the border. They have 4-stick packs too, something that has long been illegal in our country (we used to have 7-stick packs).

    • I don’t think that’s possible! 🙂

      No country in the world has done that except Bhutan.

      However, our government is doing a lot – like setting a minimum price, having standard 20-stick packs (studies show that small packs like 4-packs and 7-packs leads to young people smoking coz it’s cheaper) and also by having increased penalties against illegal cigarettes.

      Illegal cigarettes is a huge problem in my home state coz it contributes to a lot of crime due to smuggling and I’m glad the government is doing something to stop that.

  5. OMG!!! smoking kids. so sad. I do not like the smell of cigarettes and do not like people who smoke. Stay away from me .Dizzy with the smell of cigarettes… huhu

    • I guess you won’t be dining at the 3 Michelin star Alinea anytime soon then. 🙂

      They serve braised short rib of beef with distilled tobacco pudding over there. Heh.

      I’ll make it a point to eat there in the next few years if I can get a reservation.

      Seriously though, I commend you for not smoking, it’s hard to quit once you start.

  6. Actually, I took my first puff when I was.. a kid! (below 5 years old too!)
    Yup. It was more of a monkey see monkey do. It was during some lantern festival party whereby all my neighbours from various race gathered & there were food, drinks, lanterns, fireworks (& crackers hehe) & of course the men would smoke & drink.

    Since I, being naive & silly; thought it was cool to see the uncles & my Dad smoking, curiosity go the best of me and also Dunhill & Malboro on TV Ads made it so cool. So when I took the lighter & lite the cig. the rest thought it was amusing until… I puffed, chocked & coughed it. Yup, my first time smoking. It was the most intoxicating & nerve wrecking sensation. They all dropped whatever on their hands, ran up to me, patted me non-stop. The look on their face were priceless. That night, they all stopped smoking. Eventually, my Dad kicked off the habit because he didn’t want my brother or anyone in the neighborhood to pick up smoking.

    I believe a lot of kids do the (darnest) things based on their (real life) models.
    Kids like to imitate whatever adults do because they are their role models.
    So if you see kids like to dress up, put makeup & etc. it’s usually because of their parents, sisters or even TV. Other than the influence of smoking, I picked up making coffee, instant noodles around the same age, thanks to the TV too. My Mum didn’t realize a thing till years later.

    As for smoking addiction/habit whether social smoker or chain smoker, it’s mostly out of one’s will power/mind to do it or not. So far, most guys I know quit for real because of health issue coz. money can buy cigs. no matter how expensive but it sure can’t buy health.


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