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Cigarette Smuggling

SmokeFree Tasmania and Minister trade barbs

A war of words has erupted between the Health Minister Michael Ferguson and advocacy group, SmokeFree Tasmania, after it accused the government of bowing to the wishes of big tobacco companies.

http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4691300/government-slams-smoke-group-claims/

The stoush comes after Tasmania was named runner-up in the Australian Medical Association’s Dirty Ashtray Award – for governments that make the least effort to reduce smoking.

Responding to the second placing, Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the state would achieve better scores from the association as more policies aimed at reducing smoking rates were implemented.

But SmokeFree Tasmania north member Harley Stanton said the government had included suggestions from big tobacco companies to formulate its Healthy Tasmania Strategic Plan.

“Given that the Tasmanian government, in its healthy Tasmania policy, included advice from Imperial Tobacco it is not surprising that they have been nationally rebuked,” he said.

“This is both embarrassing internationally and bad conduct for any government.”

Fellow SmokeFree Tasmania adviser Kathryn Barnsley said the government needed to distance itself from tobacco companies.

She said the benefit of the government’s crusade on the illicit tobacco market benefited tobacco companies, like Imperial Tobacco.

“The tobacco industry wants the government to crack down on illicit tobacco, but the illicit market is not a health problem,” she said.

But Mr Ferguson slammed the comments as “complete and utter rubbish”.

“I also point out for the record that last year, the government proposed as part of the five-year plan raising the smoking age to 21, and SmokeFree Tasmania aggressively campaigned against it which is inexplicable,” he said.

Dr Barnsley said the government had also failed to provide more money for mass-media campaigns to reduce smoking rates.

Dr Stanton criticised the government’s health expenditure announced in last week’s budget.

“Prevention is better than a cure and reducing the number of people smoking will take pressure off our hospitals,” he said.

Smokers Undeterred as Bills Keep Rising

Since the beginning of the past fiscal year (ended in March) the taxes collected on tobacco products are paid to the Health Ministry (50%), Education Ministry (25%) and Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (25%) for anti-smoking campaigns

https://financialtribune.com/articles/people/65335/smokers-undeterred-as-bills-keep-rising

Iranians spend $1-1.5 million (40 to 50 billion rials) on tobacco products each day and the cost of treating tobacco-related disease is almost three times more than the amount spent on tobacco consumption.

During the past five years, the rate of tobacco consumption has only slightly decreased, studies conducted by the Health Ministry indicate. The rate is still high among adolescents and young people (the peak age for first trying of smoking has decreased from 13 to 10). The figure has also increased dramatically compared to the past decade, the Persian language weekly ‘Salamat’ reported.

“In 2006, Iranians smoked 50 billion cigarettes (worth $33.3 million). The figure reached 60-70 billion cigarettes in 2016,” said Dr Mohammadreza Madani, head of the Iranian Anti-Tobacco Association (IATA).

Another concern is the high prevalence of hookah (water pipe) for smoking flavored tobacco among young people. One hour of smoking hookah exposes a smoker 100-fold to the amount of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. Even those people around a hookah smoker inhale smoke equal to 10 cigarettes.

Every year on May 31, the WHO marks World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 is ‘Tobacco – a threat to development.’

But irrespective of the programs to create awareness on the harmful effects of smoking, statistics show that 14-15% of Iranians from the 80 million population are regular cigarette smokers (more than 3% are women, and 20% men).

“Though most of the cigarette smokers are men, hookah smoking doesn’t vary by gender; 21.3% of women and 21.7% of men are hookah smokers,” Madani said.

Dodging Taxes

Iran is one of the nations that has signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), by which a country is committed to reduce the rate of tobacco consumption every year (by implementation of both price and tax measures as well as non-price measures to reduce demand for tobacco).

Pointing to Article 8 of the National Comprehensive Law on Tobacco Control, Madani said, “According to the law passed in 2006, every year taxes on cigarettes should be increased by 10%.”

“However, there have been always obstacles in its implementation. For example, in 2010 the figure decreased to 5% due to ‘manipulative tactics’ by the powerful tobacco lobby. Tobacco producers said that high taxes on cigarettes would lead to an increase in cigarette smuggling, and thus managed to reduce the tax.”

However, in January this year, lawmakers passed cigarette and tobacco tax slabs to be implemented under the sixth five-year economic development plan (2017-22).

Based on the new law, the tax slab on locally-produced tobacco and cigarettes is 10%; for local brands jointly produced by domestic and foreign manufacturers, it is 20%; for domestically produced cigarettes with foreign brand names the slab is 25%; and for imported cigarettes and tobacco, it is 40%.

Lawmakers also mandated the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade to announce the retail prices of cigarettes and all tobacco products to the relevant authorities for taxation purposes and for printing the tax rates on cigarette packs.

“Since the beginning of the past fiscal year (ended in March) the taxes collected on tobacco products are paid to the Health Ministry (50%), Education Ministry (25%) and Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (25%). The Education Ministry is required to spend the money on increasing students’ awareness of harms associated with tobacco smoking,” Madani said.

Earlier, the tax money was given to the ministries of health and sports and youth affairs.

Facts About Tobacco

There are more than 7 million deaths from tobacco use every year, a figure that is predicted to cross 8 million by 2030 without effective and intensified action. Tobacco consumption is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease, and death, impoverishing families and national economies.

Tobacco use costs national economies enormously through increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity. Some 80% of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low- or middle-income countries, which face increased challenges to achieving their development goals, the WHO website reports.

Tobacco growing requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which can be toxic and pollute water supplies. Each year, tobacco growing uses 4.3 million hectares of land, resulting in global deforestation between 2% and 4%. Tobacco manufacturing also produces over 2 million tons of solid waste.

By increasing cigarette taxes worldwide by $1, an extra $190 billion could be raised for development. High tobacco taxes contribute to revenue generation for governments, reduce demand for tobacco, and offer an important revenue stream to finance development activities.

Reduction in tobacco taxes to be a disaster: PIMA

Doctors resent government’s plan to make smoking ‘easier’

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/206442-Reduction-in-tobacco-taxes-to-be-a-disaster-PIMA

Reacting to a statement made by the Special Assistant to the PM on Revenue, who has expressed that high taxes on cigarettes encourage smuggling which, in turn, costs billions to the exchequer, the president of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMS) Wednesday suggested that if such a cause and effect relationship is logical, then the government should bring heroin, hashish and other menaces in the open market as a commercial commodity as well, and earn huge income through taxes.

“The government should be ashamed for increasing the prices of basic commodities like bread, fruits, milk, petrol, electricity, etc. and reducing the prices of dangerous items like tobacco,” the PIMA chief stated. He pointed out that Pakistan has one of the largest populations of tobacco users in the world, with over 22 million adults smoking cigarettes, ‘huqqa’ or ‘biri’ and millions more using smokeless tobacco products, including ‘gutka,’ ‘naswar,’ and ‘paan.’ Over 100,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco use each year from lung and oral cancers, strokes, heart and respiratory diseases.

Research has shown that increase in tobacco prices leads to a decrease in the number of smokers in a given community, one of the most effective of many strategies to curb tobacco use. “Here, our government is going to do exactly the opposite: make it easier to buy cigarette. While it may not matter for the richer strata of the society, even a small price increase matters a lot for the poor and lower middle class. It is this group unfortunately that is farthest away from any sort of health education, health care and economic benefits when it comes to illness that inevitably stems from tobacco use,” the PIMA president pointed out.

A research study on tobacco taxation in Pakistan, conducted jointly by FBR, World Bank, University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Beaconhouse National University, concluded that a uniform specific excise tax of Rs31.2 per pack of 20 cigarettes, could reduce overall cigarette consumption by 7.5 per cent, increase tax revenues by Rs27.2 billion, leading to over half a million users quitting and reducing premature deaths among current adult smokers by over 180,000, while also preventing 725,000 youth from taking up smoking.

Only a week ago, the Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal had recommended an increase in the Federal Excise Duty on lower slab of all brands of cigarettes from the current Rs32.98 to Rs44 per pack of 20 cigarettes.

Organised crime syndicates smuggling ‘low risk’ tobacco leaf and cigarettes into Australia

ORGANISED crime syndicates trafficking drugs like ice and cocaine are now smuggling tobacco leaf and cigarettes and funnelling the cash back to terrorist groups.

http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/news/national/organised-crime-syndicates-smuggling-low-risk-tobacco-leaf-and-cigarettes-into-australia/news-story/81507f303ce6c7005b0f764afc10fe9b?nk=4a17044c8404afede5aa34fab4c90734-1490219416

With government taxes on tobacco set to rise again in May’s federal Budget, black market tobacco leaf and cigarettes are now as profitable as narcotics.

And such is the “low risk high return” market, Federal law enforcement now have credible evidence monies from tobacco trafficking are supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Lead national crime fighting agency Australian Border Force intelligence has flagged a noticeable shift in the pattern of trafficking of tobacco which is rising exponentially, in ordinary postal mail alone by 10 to 15 per cent every year.

According to figures obtained by News Corp Australia, in January last year 3.6 million sticks of cigarettes and 435kg of loose leaf tobacco was intercepted at the nation’s main foreign parcel receiving facility in Sydney through which 75 per cent of all mail nationally passes through.

But this January, the latest monthly figure available, 5 million sticks and more than 1 tonne of loose leaf was intercepted.

Last year’s record average was 150 tonnes of loose leaf and 40 million sticks seized but this year that’s expected to be significantly eclipsed.

The difference has been the emergence of serious organised crime groups as opposed to opportunists taking over the trade almost in entirety.

“It’s all about the money,” one frontline ABF officer involved in the fight said.

“Those who were sending drugs are now involved, because the profit is there. We will recognise the mail coming through as being from the same criminal syndicate … over the last 12 months with tobacco we are actually seeing the exporters using the methodologies we would normally see with drugs.”

Such is the profit margin, ABF recently seized a teddy bear with just four packets of cigarettes sewn into it, a considerable effort for just $60 profit but in multiple individual teddy parcels it could be considerable.

Most of the illicit cigarettes, some of which ends up on the shelves of legitimate corner shops, is from South Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong while loose leaf is mostly from Indonesia and the Middle East.

Some of it is manufactured legally but with the intention to import it specifically to Australia (evidenced in their plain packaging) to avoid duties or to fuel the black market with foreign markings and brands.

While the trafficking alone is a concern so to are its national security implications.

It has been learnt Australia’s multiagency counter terrorism agents, including the ABF, Australian Federal Police and ASIO, have been warned by overseas counterparts notably both US and French authorities and Interpol that the tobacco smuggling industry was being taken over by terrorist networks.

Specifically suspects linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban in Pakistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon and elements linked with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghred (AQIM) in North Africa, Islamic State (ISIS) and even Colombian militant group FARC who traditionally have been involved almost exclusively just in cocaine production.

Australian authorities have intelligence of targets here believed to be in the tobacco smuggling trade and sympathetic and or indirectly linked to the Islamic extremist cause of both Hezbollah and ISIS.

Authorities have conceded the thresholds that have to be established for a prosecution with proof of knowledge and proof of origin are substantial and hard to make, not helped by suspected corrupt import brokers and freight handlers.

Earlier this month, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) told a parliamentary joint committee inquiry into illicit tobacco it was a “low risk high reward” trafficking industry and as such high-end criminals were using profits to fund into other criminal enterprises.

This included those with jihadist terror links, although sensitivities around element prompted a request for the evidence to be heard behind closed doors.

There was evidence just one successful import out of 20 attempts from the Middle East was all that was needed to turn a profit.

In 2015, the ABF recognised the rise in tobacco smuggling and the potential loss to government in tax revenue and created a dedicated strike team.

The level of illegal trafficking attempts is expected to rise significantly with a 12.5 per cent increase in excise and customs duties to come in this September under the Federal Government’s May budget, to make the average cost of a packet of cigarettes the most expensive in the world at up to $40 a packet.

Stamps mandated for tobacco products

The Tax Authoritiy (AT) has introduced a “control” stamp on tobacco products and plans the same for alcohol to reduce revenue loss from illicit trade, the AIM news agency reported.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/Stamps_mandated_for_tobacco_products.54149.0.html

All imported and domestically manufactured products must bear the stamp to be sold legally, said AIM, the Agência de Informação de Moçambique. Amelia Nakhare, AT chairperson, said the new stamp would have a significant impact on government revenue and the country’s fiscal organisation, AIM said. She reportedly announced the new stamp during a visit to the British American Tobacco factory in Maputo, where cigarettes bearing the new seal were being manufactured.

Recent Gains on Global Tobacco Taxation

http://blogs.worldbank.org/health/recent-gains-global-tobacco-taxation

The landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, issued by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry in 1964, represented the first time that a government report linked smoking and ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease. The scientific evidence accumulated over the past five decades has helped us understand how tobacco use imposes a heavy health and economic burden across countries.

Action to curb tobacco use makes solid economic sense, given the high costs of tobacco-related illnesses and premature death and disability among adults in their most productive years. Smoking harms health, incomes, earning potential, and labor productivity. Smoking also undermines human capital development —a critical factor for inclusive economic and social development.

Raising tobacco taxation commensurate with affordability levels is proven to be the most effective measure to curve consumption. Tax increases are most effective in countries where the social acceptability of smoking is reduced by curtailing smoking in public places and educating the population about its negative health impact.

Contrary to the assumption that tobacco taxes are regressive, the results of recent studies done in Chile and the United States show that the benefits of this policy measured in terms of lower medical expenses and an increase in working years outweighs any relative increase in tobacco prices, largely benefitting the poor more than the rich.

Over the past decade, the World Bank Group (WBG), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bloomberg Foundation, and in coordination other organizations, such as WHO, has expanded its tobacco taxation work globally to assist countries implement their public health and domestic resource mobilization efforts. Simultaneously, technical assistance is being provided to strengthen countries’ legal and regulatory capacity to control illicit tobacco trade. Support is also being provided to facilitate knowledge-sharing, building upon existing platforms such as the Joint Learning Network (JLN).

The experience of Philippines over 2012-2016 is one of the most compelling examples of ambitious national tobacco tax reform. It involved a fundamental restructuring of the country’s tobacco excise tax structure, including reduction in the number of tax tiers; indexation of tax rates to inflation; and substantial tax increases which expanded the fiscal space to fund the increase in the number of families enrolled in the health insurance scheme from 5.2 million primary members in 2012 to 15.3 million in 2015.

More recently, national governments in several countries have adopted significant tobacco tax reforms to improve public health and mobilize domestic resources, covering a total population of 200 million people. In the Ukraine, the 2017 budget includes a 40% excise tax increase on tobacco products, above the 2016 level, while maintaining a 12% ad valorem tax. It is estimated that that this measure will increase on average the excise tax burden as a share of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes from 41% in 2016 to 46% in 2017, while consumption is expected to decrease by 10%. To get a sense of the magnitude of health gains likely to result from the adoption of these tax increases, modeling work estimated that, by 2035, Ukraine’s recent tobacco tax increases will prevent 126,730 new cases of smoking-related disease; 29,172 premature deaths; and 267,098 potential years of life lost, relative to no change in tax. These reductions in disease and death are estimated to result in significant healthcare costs avoided.

As part of broad fiscal reforms approved by Colombia’s Congress, new taxes on tobacco products will nearly triple prices over 2017-2018, with annual adjustments for inflation and a mandated specific increase in subsequent years. Likewise, in Moldova, the average excise tax burden on a pack of cigarettes will increase from 39% in 2016 to 45% in 2017.

Following the introduction of the new tax regime in 2017, Armenia’s tobacco excise tax burden will double, increasing to 62% of the average retail price by 2020. In the case of Armenia and Colombia, tobacco taxation increases are part of larger tax system reforms that were included under fiscal consolidation programs.

In moving forward this agenda, we have to be clear that to be effective and sustainable, the design of tobacco tax reforms has to be grounded on a good understanding of how public policy is created and implemented in a country, including the social forces which could support or hinder the passage of strong anti-tobacco measures. We also have to be mindful that the adoption of tobacco tax reforms could be greatly facilitated if they are included as part of broad fiscal consolidation programs as shown by the recent experience in Armenia and Colombia, or as part of the formulation of annual government budgets as shown by the experience in Moldova and Ukraine.

KLIA customs cripple cigarette, chewing tobacco smuggling bid

The Royal Malaysian Customs at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Klia) crippled an attempt to smuggle in 2.56 million sticks of cigarette and 7,560 kg of chewing tobacco on Sunday.

The consignment was valued at RM400,000 with unpaid taxes amounting to RM2.2 million.

Klia Customs director Datuk Hamzah Sundang said three lorries and three local men aged between 26 and 34 years were intercepted at the cargo inspection section.

“The three lorries were found to be loaded with cigarettes and chewing tobacco without any declaration document to allow them to pass through the Klia customs cargo gate,” he told a media conference here today.

He said the three men had been remanded for seven days to assist in the investigation under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967.

Hamzah attributed the success of the case to the Coordinated Border Management (CBM) operation launched on Jan 15 to curb leakages and smuggling activities.

He said throughout the CBM operation conducted at the Klia Free Trade Zone, 30 cases of wrongdoing were recorded, of which 29 were issued compounds and one, prosecuted in court under the Customs Act.

“For the period between Jan 15 and March 6, 2017, RM295.66 million were collected throughout Ops CBM, an increase of 22.66 per cent compared to the same period last year, ” he said, adding that the operation was ongoing. — Bernama

HK customs seizes 900,000 suspected illicit cigarettes

HONG Kong Customs on Friday said they have seized about 900,000 suspected illicit cigarettes with an estimated market value of 2.4 million Hong Kong dollars (about US$0.3 million ) and a duty potential of about 1.7 million Hong Kong dollars.

http://www.shanghaidaily.com/nation/HK-customs-seizes-900000-suspected-illicit-cigarettes/shdaily.shtml

During an anti-illicit cigarette operation on Thursday, customs officers intercepted a truck in Kwai Chung. After inspection, customs officers found about 900,000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes in 108 carton boxes on board the truck. A 40-year-old man was arrested and the truck was detained. Investigation is ongoing.

Hong Kong customs said, smuggling is a serious offense. Under Hong Kong’s Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo is liable to a maximum fine of two million Hong Kong dollars and imprisonment for seven years.

They added that under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes commits an offense. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of one million Hong Kong dollars and imprisonment for two years.

Slovenia adopts plain packaging

Congratulations to SFP Coalition Partners No excuse Slovenia and Slovenian Coalition for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control for their tireless advocacy to support this legislation in the last year.

http://www.smokefreepartnership.eu/partner-news/item/slovenia-adopts-plain-packaging

On 15 February the Slovenian Parliament adopted the draft law proposed by the government without a single vote against. Plain packaging is expected to enter into force in 2020.

Briefly, the new Slovenian Tobacco law includes:

– Plain packaging (65% coverage with health warnings and quitting information)
– Introduction of license for selling tobacco products,
– Total display and Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) ban
– Prohibition of selling tobacco products with aromas and other additives
– Prohibition of smoking in cars with a minor present
– Prohibition of smoking indoors including E-cigarettes
– Mystery shopping/test purchasing by underage,
– Measures of prevention of illicit trade

Hong Kong Department of Health Tobacco Control Zero Efforts

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