New Delhi:- With import duty evasion from cigarette smuggling touching nearly Rs 2,500 crore, Government today said illicit trade in tobacco products undermined tobacco control policies besides causing huge revenue loss and called for a mission-control approach to tackle the problem.
“Illicit trade in tobacco products is a global problem.
It undermines tobacco control policies and also leads to significant revenue losses. The elimination of all forms of illicit trade including smuggling and illegal manufacturing is therefore, an essential component of tobacco control,” Bhanu Pratap Sharma, Secretary in the Health Ministry, said.
“Tobacco control is not just a health issue. It is a multi-sectoral issue needing a dedicated mission-control approach to tackle it,” he said during a national consultation meeting here on the topic ‘Illicit trade of tobacco products’.
Directorate of Revenue Intelligence’s seizure data on smuggling indicates over a four-fold increase in the value of seizures of smuggled cigarettes in 2014 as compared to 2012.
The import duty evasion from smuggling into the country for the financial year 2014-15 is estimated to be around Rs 2,363 crore, according to a working paper by World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the paper, the smuggled cigarettes are suspected to be from Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, China and United Arab Emirates and common transit points for them seem to be Delhi, Singapore and Dubai.
In his address, Najib Shah, Member of Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), Ministry of Finance, said, “While we have made some excellent interdictions but due to high profit margins, the illicit trade is thriving. To control this menace, we need greater cooperation amongst stakeholders, national and international.”
Quoting a study of Euromonitor International, a renowned global research organization, Tobacco Institute of India said that India is now the “fifth largest illegal cigarette market” in the world.
“In fact, the overall market for illegal cigarettes in India (comprising international smuggled and domestically manufactured tax evaded cigarettes) is now estimated at 1/5th of the cigarette industry resulting in a huge revenue loss of more than Rs 7,000 crore to the national exchequer,” the institute said in a statement.
Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO in South-East Asia Region, in her ‘World No Tobacco Day’ message said all South-East Asian countries have enacted stringent laws to control tobacco consumption, both on pricing and sale of tobacco products in the country as well as against import of foreign brands.
“Despite these efforts, there is still a thriving trade in smuggled tobacco products,” she said, as she urged member states to speed up their process of ratifying the protocol developed to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products which the international community had adopted in November 2012.
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