Malaysia releases its first Global Adult Tobacco Survey

News release

Dr Han Tieru, Director of Building Healthy Communities and Populations, congratulates Malaysia Ministry of Health on the completion of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS)

Malaysia today released its first Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), which tracks tobacco use and the effectiveness of tobacco control measures in the country.

The survey indicated that more than 40% of Malaysian men smoke, or a total of 4.7 million adult smokers. Almost no women—less than 1%--smoke in Malaysia.

Four out of 10 adults were found to be exposed to second-hand smoke at home (7.6 million adults), and four out of 10 were found to be exposed to second-hand smoke indoors at their workplace (2.3 million adults). Among those adults who visited a restaurant in the past 30 days, seven out of 10 were exposed to second-hand smoke (8.6 million adults).

The survey includes the most up-to-date statistics about tobacco use among Malaysian adults—information that can serve as an evidence base to strengthen tobacco control.

Other key findings include:

  • among those who have smoked on a daily basis, only 9.5% have successfully quit;
  • 14.3% of adults planned to or were thinking about quitting within the next 12 months;
  • only about half (52.6%) of smokers who visited a health-care provider in the past 12 months were advised to quit smoking;
  • although the rate of smoking among adult females is low, 1 in 3 adult females were exposed to second-hand smoke at home, and 2 in 3 (68.4%) were exposed to second-hand smoke in restaurants over the past 30 days;
  • 39.8% of adults who work indoors were exposed to second-hand smoke at their workplace (46.2% of men and 30.1% of women);
  • on average, a current cigarette smoker spent RM 178.80 (or about USD 60) per month on manufactured cigarettes;
  • 87.1% of adults noticed anti-cigarette smoking information on television or radio;
  • 21.7% of adults noticed cigarette advertising in stores, and 30.8% noticed cigarette advertising or promotions in places other than stores;
  • 92.2% of adults believe that smoking causes serious illness;
  • 85.8% of adults believe that breathing other people's tobacco smoke causes serious illness in nonsmokers;
  • 83.5% of adults believe that smoking should be prohibited indoors at restaurants;
  • seven out of 10 adults favour increasing taxes on tobacco products;

There are proven methods to reduce tobacco’s impact on Malaysians, and the country has committed to implement these through its ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the first international public health treaty negotiated under WHO's auspices and one of the most widely ratified treaties in the history of the United Nations This treaty provides a road map for successfully reducing tobacco use, if rigorously and fully implemented.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey systematically monitored the prevalence of adult tobacco use in Malaysia using a nationally representative sample of Malaysian adults as well as the effectiveness of certain tobacco control measures mandated by the WHO FCTC. These measures, known by the acronym MPOWER, have been proven to reduce tobacco use and should be given high priority for implementation in every nation. They include:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention and cessation efforts
  • Protect everyone from second-hand smoke with laws that require smoke-free workplaces and public places
  • Offer help to every tobacco user to quit
  • Warn and effectively educate every person about the dangers of tobacco use with strong pictorial health warnings and hard-hitting, sustained media campaigns to educate the public
  • Enact and enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships and on the use of misleading terms such as “light” and “low-tar”
  • Raise the price of tobacco products by increasing tobacco taxes

Tobacco consumption is a leading preventable cause of death and disease worldwide, causing nearly six million deaths each year. According to the Malaysian Ministry of Health, tobacco use in Malaysia accounts for 35% of in-hospital deaths, principally from cancer, heart disease and stroke. More than 10 000 Malaysians die from smoking-related illnesses each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed GATS in 2007, and Malaysia is now the 16th country to have completed the survey, which uses an internationally standardized methodology that facilitates comparisons between countries and the different regions where the survey has been implemented.

GATS Malaysia was implemented by the Institute for Public Health (IPH) in collaboration with the Disease Control and Health Education Divisions, Ministry of Health; Department of Statistics; University of Malaya and International Islamic University.

For more information, please contact:

James Rarick
Technical Officer
Tobacco Free Initiative


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