New Findings



Malaysia is one of two ITC SEA survey countries.  This project is an expansion of the ITC 4-Country (Australia, Canada, UK and US) into two developing countries (Malaysia and Thailand).  Malaysia signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on 23 September 2003.  The treaty was ratified on 16 September 2005.

Country Profile:

Capital City Kuala Lumpur
Population (2009 estimate) 26,255,700(Malaysian only), 28,306,700(Malaysian + Non Malaysian)
Life expectancy (2009 estimate) Men: 70.56 years, Women: 76.21 years
Ethnic groups Malay 54.9%, Chinese 24.5%, Indigenous 11.9%, Indian 7.4%, Others 1.3% all calculations based on Malaysian population only (26,255,700)
Religions Muslim 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism/Toaism/other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, Other or unknown 1.5%, None 0.8%
Languages Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
GDP per capita (2006) $12,800
Median age 24.9 years
Literacy 88.7%

Background Information:

During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945.  In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957.  Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo joined the Federation.  The first several years of the country’s history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore’s secessation from the Federation in 1965.  During the 22-year term of Prime Minister DR. Mahathir bin Mohamad (1981-2003), Malaysia was successful in diversifying its economy from dependence on exports of raw materials, to expansion in manufacturing, services, and tourism.

Administrative Divisions:

13 states (negeri-negeri, singular: negeri), Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, and Terengganu
1 Federal Territory (Wilayah Persekutuan) with three components, city of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya

Economic Overview:

Malaysia, a middle-income country, transformed itself in 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy.  Growth was also exclusively driven by exports – particularly of electronics.  As a result, Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the information technology (IT) sector in 2001 and 2002.  The economy grew 4.9% in 2003, notwithstanding a difficult first half, when external pressures from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Iraq War led to caution in the business community.  Growth topped 7% in 2004 and 5% per year in 2005-06.  As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the rising cost of domestic gasoline and diesel fuel forced Kuala Lumpur to reduce government subsidies, contributing to higher inflation.  Malaysia “unpegged” the ringgit from the US dollar in 2005 and the currency appreciated 6% against the dollar in 2006.  Healthy foreign exchange reserves and a small external debt greatly reduce the risk that Malaysia will experience a financial crisis over the next term similar to the one in 1997.  The economy remains dependent on continued growth in the US, China and Japan – top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment.  The government presented its five-year national development agenda in April 2006 through the Ninth Malaysia Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for the allocation of the national budget from 2006-10.  The plan targets the development of higher value-added manufacturing and an expansion of the services sector.

Smoking Prevalence and Related Costs:

  • it is estimated that 16% (4 million) of Malaysians smoke, with adult male smokers being the largest group
  • approximately 4-6% of total Malaysian women smoke
  • about 420,000 adolescents (13-17 years of age) smoke in Malaysia.  It is estimated that 50 adolescents learn smoking each day
  • the majority of Malaysian smokers are from the Malay ethnic group
  • 3 smoking related diseases (coronary heart disease, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases) cost the Malaysian government an estimated 3 billion Ringgit a year
  • an estimated 10,000 deaths a year in Malaysia are related to smoking

Smoking Policies:

  • ban direct cigarette advertising on television and radio in 1982 and expanded to all mass media in 1994
  • law banning indirect advertising of tobacco brand names effective from 24 September 2004 under Malaysian Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004
  • the provisions for PHW will become effective on 1 January 2009, when at least 2 variants from each tobacco manufacturer had their PHW packs displayed on retail shelves. By 1 March 2009, all variants must have PHW (but old stocks produced before 15/9/08 may still remain in the market). By 1 June 2009 all cigarettes on sale had PHW – old stocks without PHW must be removed.

ITC Researchers:

Maizurah Omar, Associate Professor, National Poison Centre, University Sains Malaysia
Rahmat Awang, Professor, National Poison Centre, University Sains Malaysia

Malaysia policy table

South East Asia Wave 4 Technical Report

Malaysia Contact Information

Anne Quah, Project Manager. Email:

Maizurah Omar, Principal Investigator. Email:

ITC Affilitated Institutions:

Universiti Sains Malaysia (National Poison Centre)

Sources: CIA World Factbook, National Poison Center Malaysia, WHO

Click here for the ITC Malaysia survey questionnaires »

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