Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the proposal was made at the 11th Asean Health Ministers meeting in Phuket, Thailand, last week.
This change could be part of the 2015 Afta, he said after launching the Malaysian Dietitians’ Association’s Scientific Conference and 18th general meeting here yesterday.
“We will convey this message to the International Trade and Industry Ministry as Afta negotiations are still going on.”
Liow said if tobacco was taken off the Afta list, it would not enjoy the low five per cent tariff rate.
“When taken off the list, incentives for the product will also be taken away, thus increasing the import price. Higher tax would encourage smokers to smoke less and discourage new smokers from taking up the habit.”
Liow added that the meeting also saw suggestions to reduce the number of smokers, curb duty-free tobacco sales and fight other non-communicable diseases.
“A free flow of tobacco will affect our efforts to combat tobacco use in the country.”
Liow said the ministry was serious in fighting tobacco use and aimed to create a smoke-free environment in more places.
“But we need the support of the public and other bodies in achieving this.”
Malaysian Dietitians’ Association president Indra Balaratnam said many smokers had the misconception that quitting smoking would cause them to gain weight.
“Smokers who rely on tobacco, thinking it keeps their weight down, are wrong.”
Indra advised smokers and others to approach dietitians for healthy eating tips to lead a healthier life.
On the outbreak of a strange respiratory disease, said to have killed 52 children in Cambodia since April, Liow said the ministry was monitoring all entry points and getting more information on the sickness.