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Tobacco Industry Monitor

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance

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Malaysia is an upper-middle income country[1] with 13 states separated by the South China Sea into two areas, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (part of the island of Borneo).  After claiming independence from British colonizers in 1957, the states of Peninsular Malaysia became the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, two states on Borneo island joined the federation, forming Malaysia. The nation is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. 

Smoking Prevalence

Malaysia is home to over 4.9 million adult smokers, and over 24,000 people die as a result of major tobacco-related diseases every year.[2]  The 2015 National Health & Morbidity Survey found that while most smoked manufactured cigarettes, older smokers and those living in rural areas were also likely to smoke hand-rolled cigarettes. 37.1% of Malaysians 15 and over were exposed to secondhand smoke, including 25.9% of non-smokers.[3] According to Institute for Public Health (IPH),[4] the youth smoking prevalence in Malaysia in 2017 was 13.8%.

Cigarette Retail Price

The price of BAT’s Dunhill and JTI’s Mevius is now RM17.50 in line with pack. PMI’s Marlboro, L&M, and Chesterfield are now priced at RM17.20, RM15.70, and RM12.20 per pack. JTI’s Winston is up at RM16 a pack while LD is RM12 in step with pack.[5]

Tobacco Leaf Production

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)[6] the information of tobacco leaf production in Malaysia in 2018 as presented in the table below;

Area harvested2,779.00Im ha
Yield7,639.00Fc hg/ha
Production2,123.00Im tonnes

FC: Calculated data
Im: FAO data based on imputation methodology

Who Dominates the Market?

As of 2019, British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Berhad has the largest market share (56%) of all tobacco companies in Malaysia, followed by JT International Tobacco (M) Sdn Bhd (24%), and Philip Morris (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (13.5%).[7]

Roadmap to Tobacco Control

The earliest-known tobacco control initiatives in Malaysia took place in the 1974. Four municipal councils across Peninsular Malaysia acted to establish by-laws that prohibited smoking in cinemas.[8] In 1993, the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations (CTPR1993) legislation was passed as a component of the Food Act 1983, with nationwide enforcement starting the following year. CTPR1993 included prohibitions on sales of tobacco products to minors and a partial ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. Malaysia signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on 23 September 2003, and became a Party to the treaty on 15 December 2005, 90 days after ratification.[9] In alignment with the WHO FCTC, the Malaysian government developed the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations of 2004 (CPTR2004) legislation to replace CTPR1993. Since 2004, the legislation has been amended multiple times, most recently in 2018. Since 2011, the Ministry of Health has also issued five tobacco control notices to declare the smoke-free status of specific areas.[10]

Tobacco Control Legislation in Malaysia[11]

2004Control of Tobacco Product Regulation 2004
2008Control of Tobacco Product Regulation (Amendment) 2008
2009Control of Tobacco Product Regulation (Amendment) 2009
2010Control of Tobacco Product Regulation (Amendment) 2010
2012Excise Duties (Amendment) Order 2012

Excise Duties (Amendment) Order 2013

Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulation 2013

2015Excise Duties (Amendment) Order 2015
2017Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulation 2017
2018Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2018

Smoke-Free Environments

The following areas in Malaysia are required to be 100% smoke-free by law, though enforcement remains an issue: Government facilities, hospitals, residential and non-residential healthcare facilities, childcare facilities, preschools, primary and secondary schools, universities and vocational facilities, cultural facilities such as museums, indoor stadiums/arenas, restaurants, prisons and other detention facilities, all public ground transportation such as trains and buses, taxis, aircraft, and watercraft. Some smoking restrictions exist in the following areas: workplaces, private offices, shops, public areas of hotels and other lodging, and transport facilities such as airports and bus stations. There are no current policy restrictions on smoking in bars/pubs/nightclubs, casinos, and the guest rooms of hotels and other lodging.[12]

Tobacco Packaging and Labeling

Pictorial health warnings are required on smoked tobacco products, placed front and back, with 50% of the front and 60% of the back areas covered. The warnings on tobacco packages must be rotated between a minimum of 12 different messages. The warnings are required on the outside and inside of packages and must include warning text in the Malay language.[13] 

Currently, warnings are not yet required for non-conventional cigarette products. In Malaysia, there is disagreement over whether heated tobacco products (HTPs) are considered tobacco products and therefore subject to regulation under the CTPR. As a result of this loophole, Philip Morris International (PMI) began selling their IQOS HTP in November 2018 without any public health warnings.[14]

Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship

In Malaysia, tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship are banned via the following formats: domestic TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and other print media; Internet sales; outdoor and point-of-sale advertising; vending machines, conventional mail; telephone and mobile phone messaging; brand marking; free tobacco product distribution and gifts-with-purchase; competitions associated with products; direct targeting of individuals; brand stretching; retailer incentive programs; paid placements on tv, film, or other media; publicity and/or financial support to groups or events; and product promotion by false, misleading, or deceptive means[15]. Although point-of-sale advertising and promotions are banned, pack displays are not; tobacco companies provide retailers with branded display cabinets/counters and incentivize retailers to keep their product packs prominently displayed.[16]

Tobacco Tax[17]

Despite periodic tax increases in Malaysia, there is no long-term tobacco tax policy, and increases have been small and ad hoc (the last tax increase was in 2015). Cigarettes in Malaysia continue to be affordable. The excise rate in Malaysia is MYR 0.40 per stick. The tax burden as a percentage of retail price in Malaysia is between 53% and 58%.

Malaysia does not prohibit the sale to and/or importation of tax-free or duty-free tobacco products. International travelers are permitted a duty-free allowance of 200 sticks of cigarettes or 225 grams of other tobacco products.

Tobacco Industry Interference[18]

The tobacco industry’s participation and influence in tobacco control policies have been enabled by the industry’s inclusion as a stakeholder. The tobacco industry has been successful in delaying implementation of scheduled excise taxes. Several tobacco control policy decisions for smoke-free environments have remained pending since 2016 due to lobbying efforts by the tobacco industry. The government also reneged on its decision to establish standardized packaging, yielding to pressure from the tobacco industry and postponing implementation plans.

The tobacco industry creates opportunities to access policymakers and promote its products by engaging in a number of image-building corporate social responsibility activities. For example, PMI sponsors Yayasan Salam Malaysia’s “Back-to-School” program. Publicly available information reveals that Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had met with a contingent from the US-ASEAN Business Council (which included two PMI executives) while in office.

Several current or former government officials are known to hold senior positions in tobacco companies, and the tobacco industry is not prohibited from making and disclosing political contributions. Since 2017, Malaysian Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Aseh bin Haji Che Mat has been an independent non-executive director and chairman of the board at BAT Malaysia. He has held several civil service positions since 1974, and served as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs from 2001-2007.

[1] World Bank Country and Lending Groups. 2020. https://datahelpdesk.worldbank.org/knowledgebase/articles/906519
[2] The Tobacco Control Atlas: ASEAN Region. Fourth Edition. 2018. https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA%20Tobacco%20Control%20Atlas%20ASEAN%20Region%204th%20Ed%20Sept%202018.pdf
[3] National Health & Morbidity Survey: Report on Smoking Status Among Malaysia Adults. 2015. http://www.moh.gov.my/moh/resources/NHMS2015-VolumeV.pdf
[4] Institute for Public Health (IPH). (2017). National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2017: Adolescent Health Survey 2017, Malaysia.
[5] Global Data, Retail Prices, Malaysia Cigarettes, 2019, page 29
[6] Tobacco Production Quantity by Country, FAO Data: Food and Agriculture Organization <http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=FAO&f=itemCode%3a826>
[7] The Tobacco Control Atlas: ASEAN Region. Fourth Edition. 2018. https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA%20Tobacco%20Control%20Atlas%20ASEAN%20Region%204th%20Ed%20Sept%202018.pdf
[8] Not Easy to Smoke in Malaysia. Official Portal: Tak Nak Merokok! MyHEALTH Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2020. http://taknak.myhealth.gov.my/en/not-easy-to-smoke-in-malaysia/
[9] United Nations Treaty Collection. Who Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 2020. https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IX-4&chapter=9&clang=_en
[10] Tobacco Control Laws. Legislation by Country: Malaysia. Summary. https://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org/legislation/country/malaysia/summary
[11] https://seatca.org/resource-center-asean-tc-malaysia/
[12] Tobacco Control Policy Fact Sheet. Malaysia: Smoke Free Places. 2019. https://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org/legislation/factsheet/sf/malaysia
[13] SEATCA Tobacco Packaging and Labelling Index: Implementation of Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in ASEAN Countries. 2019. https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA%20ARTICLE%2011%20INDEX_WEB_F.pdf
[14] Ramendran, Charles. Tobacco refills for heat-non-burn IQOS devices exempted from carrying pictorial warnings for now. The Sun Daily. Malaysia. 20 December 2018. https://www.thesundaily.my/local/tobacco-refills-for-heat-not-burn-iqos-devices-exempted-from-carrying-pictorial-warnings-for-now-EN294644
[15] Tobacco Control Policy Fact Sheet. Malaysia: Advertising, Promotion & Sponsorship. 2019. https://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org/legislation/factsheet/aps/malaysia
[16] SEATCA Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship Index: Implementation of Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in ASEAN Countries. 2019. https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA-Tobacco-advertising-promotion-sponsorship-index.pdf
[17] SEATCA Tobacco Tax Index. Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 6 in ASEAN Countries. 2019. https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA_TOBACCO_TAX_INDEX_ART6_2019_Final.pdf
[18] Tobacco Industry Interference Index: Implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in ASEAN Countries. 2019. https://seatca.org/dmdocuments/SEATCA_TII_INDEX_2019_vF.2_web.pdf