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December 27th, 2016:

China to Ban Smoking in Public By the End of the Year

Smokers in China should find a new habit in 2017 as the country is set to implement a stricter nationwide cigarette smoking ban by the year’s end. The country’s National Health and Family Planning Commission and a senior government official introduced the regulation to control smoking in public areas at the Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai on Tuesday, Shanghaiist reported. In a statement, the commission’s publicity head Mao Qun’an announced that “smoking harms health has become a global consensus.” The legislation drafted will make it illegal to smoke in all indoor public venues, public transport, and even workplaces. Outdoor spaces, like hospitals, primary schools, kindergartens, tourist sites, and stadiums will also be off limits to smoking. A fine of up to 500 yuan (US$72) will be imposed for every person who violates the new rule, while businesses which fail to comply will risk having their operating license revoked plus a fine of up to 30,000 yuan (US$4,320).

According to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, China is home to around 316 million smokers in the country. The country, which produces the world’s largest supply of cigarettes, has yet to enforce the WHO-endorsed graphic packaging to local tobacco companies. Other factors seen as the cause for such rampant cigarette use is the lack of information drive tackling the harm it causes. The price of cigarettes in the country also remains cheap with some brands priced for just 10 RMB ($1.60) per pack. In 2011, the Chinese government attempted a similar legislation but failed to effectively enforce it. The commission is hoping to improve its implementation this time around.

B130m in contraband medicine and cigarettes seized

The Customs Department has seized more than 130 million baht worth of medicine and foreign cigarettes as part of a concerted effort to crack down on smuggled, counterfeit and unpaid tax products.

Some 120 million baht in medicine was seized, along with another 12 million baht in smuggled cigarettes, director-general Kulit Sombatsiri said in a statement.

The medicine had been produced in India and flown to Singapore before being delivered to Thailand by ship.

Over 2 million pills of sildenafil soft gel capsules and other medicines were seized by the Customs Department as they were shipped to Thailand without licences, he said.

He added that the importers had made false declarations in terms of type, volume and weight, which breached sections 99 and 27 of the Customs Act.

Only companies that have received licences from the Food and Drug Administration can import sildenafil, taken to treat erectile dysfunction, to Thailand.

Mr Kulit said 6.32 million cigarettes were also smuggled into Thailand without evidence of customs and excise tax duty payment, violating Section 27 and 27 (bi) of the Customs Act.

The illegal cigarette packages were sealed with tax stamps from China, where they had been manufactured.

If the cigarettes had not been seized, they might have been sold on the market immediately, said Mr Kulit.

The statement said the Customs Department will continue to tighten inspections to catch imported goods on which tax payments have been avoided, in accordance with the policies of the department’s director-general.

In the last fiscal year, ending Sept 30, 2016, the Customs Department managed 113 raids on those who had smuggled cigarettes worth 11.6 million baht, according to Customs Department data.

Customs officials arrested 43 people each in October and November and seized cigarettes worth 5.36 million baht and 4.54 million, respectively.

The number of nabbed cigarette smugglers in December declined to 27 and the value of contraband also fell to 1.69 million baht.

Earlier this month, the Customs Department ordered Bestlin Group, which was contracted by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority to procure natural gas vehicles, to pay 370 million baht to retrieve the first lot of 100 vehicles, after the company was found to have improperly imported the buses and declared the import tax on them.

The buses were imported from China to Malaysia by sea before being shipped to Thailand.

The company had manipulated the import process to make the buses appear as though they had been made in and imported from Malaysia.

Bestlin was attempting to reap a tax exemption from the Asean’s free-trade agreement.