KUALA LUMPUR: The sale of the 14-stick cigarette packs has been banned with immediate effect.
At its weekly meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet decided that the ban should take effect from June 1.
This comes eight days after Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced that the ban had been put on hold pending a study by the ministry.
Recently, a news portal reported the government would delay the ban from June 1 to Jan 1 next year.
This had caused an uproar among cigarette manufacturers who had stopped producing the medium-sized pack.
Tobacco company Philip Morris said it would be forced to look into other avenues, including legal action, to recoup its losses if the ministry did not offer a proper explanation for the sudden switch in deadline.
Tobacco-product manufacturer, JTI Malaysia said it had incurred significant costs to comply with the phasing out of small packs in line with the ban.
Liow confirmed the cabinet's decision, saying he would make an official announcement next week after getting the minutes of the meeting.
"The cabinet is concerned with the current situation where the number of people, especially teenagers, women and girls, who smoke continues to soar.
"We decided that the ban should come into force immediately and not be delayed," he said.
He also said the government had taken into consideration the views of various quarters, including the public, on the matter.
Liow added that the ministry proposed ban on the sale of the packs five years ago following a study that tobacco was the second major cause of death in the world.
It currently responsible for the death of one in 10 adults worldwide, or about five million deaths each year.
According to the World Health Organisation, women make up about 20 per cent of the world's one billion smokers but if current tobacco usage continues, smoking will kill eight million people a year by 2030.
While enforcing the ban, he said a study on the sale of illicit cigarettes would be carried out by the ministry.
There are about 3.5 million smokers in Malaysia and about 10,000 people die each year due to tobacco-related diseases.