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July 18th, 2015:

Hong Kong Customs detects suspected case of smuggling illicit cigarettes in mattresses

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Hong Kong Customs detected a case of using mattresses to conceal suspected illicit cigarettes on July 15 at Lok Ma Chau Control Point. About 610 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes were seized on an incoming lorry. The total market value of the cigarettes was about $1.7 million with a duty potential of about $1.2 million.

In the operation, a 39-year-old male driver was arrested and the lorry used in the suspected smuggling of illicit cigarettes was detained.

On July 15, Customs officers at Lok Ma Chau Control Point intercepted an incoming lorry declared to be carrying 889 cartons of assorted goods including electronic parts, shoes and furniture. After thorough inspection, Customs officers found about 610 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes inside 25 mattresses. It was believed that speedy distribution of the illicit cigarettes to various buyers in the territory would be arranged.

A Customs spokesman said today, “Hong Kong Customs will continue to carry out stringent enforcement action against the smuggling of illicit cigarettes at boundary control points.”

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce should leave the death-peddling business | Editorial

Smoking kills nearly six million people a year, but that apparently is not a disincentive for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to shill for tobacco products all over the world.

The Chamber, naturally, resents that interpretation. But a New York Times piece showed how the nation’s largest business lobby is helping Big Tobacco wage a campaign throughout South American, Europe, and Asia against graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, restrictions on public smoking and marketing, and bans on menthol cigarettes.

CEO Tom Donohue asserts on the Chamber’s website that the U.S. Chamber is “not in the business of promoting cigarette smoking at home or abroad, period,” and that it is merely in the business of “upholding intellectual property protections, honoring international agreements, and not singling out any specific industry for discriminatory treatment or destruction of company brands.”

And Tom Bracken, President of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, has ruled no harm, no foul: “The clarifications they issued specifically defines their position, which is that they are totally in favor of anti-smoking measures.”

There’s just one problem with that: The Times published letters from the U.S. Chamber to public officials in countries throughout the world voicing its “concern” about its anti-smoking laws, and threatening that opposing Big Tobacco’s agenda would result in significant economic damage.

Americans don’t think much about the tobacco industry since our educational campaign has reduced the smoking population from 45 percent to 18. But the industry has rallied with full vigor, with the Chamber guiding its every noxious step, as smoking is on the rise on other continents.

For example, there are grammar schools in Indonesia that have cigarette kiosks sponsored by Marlboro. And when countries like Togo (GDP: $4.3 billion) and Uruguay (GDP: $55 billion) try to roll back health ordinances, Philip Morris (annual revenue: $80 billion) uses legal intimidation to kill them, alleging “damage” to its trademark and intellectual property.

The U.S. Chamber even has the political clout to pit one country against another in trade disputes. It enlisted Ukraine to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Australia because that country’s laws hurts Ukraine’s tobacco exports. Which is remarkable, because Ukraine doesn’t export tobacco to Australia.

It would be heartening for the Obama Administration to condemn the U.S. Chamber for supporting Big Tobacco, and let the world know that these entities do not speak for the United States. But so far the only righteous stand has come from CVS, which resigned its membership from the USCOC for trafficking in death. Until more corporations send that message, little will change.

Its domestic political influence has waned in recent years. Even when Donohue argues for the right things – such as immigration reform – House Republicans ignore him.

It remains very effective, however, in making money for its corporate partners, even when as wanders into ethical-dead zones under the pretense of “protecting intellectual property.”

But it is time the U.S. Chamber got out of the tobacco business and stopped prioritizing death over profit. And its 100 affiliates worldwide – including the one in New Jersey – should decry its policy of peddling poison.