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Duty-free plan is not the full packet

duty_free_cigarettesLast updated: April 28, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Legislators discussing an amendment to reduce the number of duty-free cigarettes from three packets to one opened packet of no more than 19 cigarettes yesterday urged the government to consider making the allowance a full packet for easier enforcement of the law.

At a meeting of the sub-committee on dutiable commodities, they argued that 19 cigarettes, one short of a full packet, could become a loophole in the law.

Under the proposed amendment, travellers can bring in no more than 19 cigarettes, a cigar or cigars weighing less than 25 grams or 25 grams of other manufactured tobacco.

At present, 60 cigarettes are exempted from duty.

Travellers bringing in more than 19 cigarettes will need to declare them and pay the appropriate tax or face a fine of HK$2,000 and a penalty of five times the value of the tax they originally had to pay.

For more serious cases, offenders could face court and a HK$1 million fine and two years’ jail.

Wholesale and retail legislator Vincent Fang Kang, supporting the call of a one-packet cigarettes allowance, said: “What if someone takes a cigarette from the packet and puts it in a pocket? Will Customs search people frequently to make sure they would not carry out this trick?”

“What is the difference between 19 sticks and a packet? It is ridiculous to see people throwing away a cigarette at the control points. What do you think foreigners will think about us when they see it? It is bad for Hong Kong’s image,” Fang said.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Professor Gabriel Leung said allowing 19 duty-free cigarettes was to give convenience to those carrying an unfinished packet. The initial intention was that no cigarettes brought into the city should be free from tax, he said.

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