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Cigarette smuggling persists

Cigarette smuggling persists

HCM CITY: Cigarette smuggling has caused a loss of thousands of billions of Vietnamese đồng each year for the state, according to figures released by the Việt Nam Tobacco Association at a symposium held yesterday (July 23) in Cần Thơ.

The tobacco industry contributes around VNĐ20 trillion (US$864.76 million) to the State revenue annually, and has created jobs for millions of workers, helping eliminate hunger and reduce poverty, according to the Việt Nam Tobacco Association.

However, while the production and trading of cigarettes in the country is strictly managed by law, cigarette smuggling has increased, causing losses to the State.

According to Nguyễn Triết, general secretary of the Việt Nam Tobacco Association, despite strict laws, cigarette smugglers have become more difficult to handle because cigarettes are light, easily transported, and bring high profits.

Cigarettes are subject to a range of taxes, including 70 per cent special consumption tax, 10 per cent value added tax, and 135 per cent import tax.

Smugglers of cigarettes are mainly jobless residents living on the border, mostly with Cambodia, who know the area well and understand the language of the bordering country.

The smugglers are also willing to fight back to escape from authorised forces.

In March, policemen were seriously injured by groups of smugglers after they were caught and held in detention in Đồng Nai and Bình Dương provinces.

Colonel Nguyễn Quốc Khởi, deputy head of the Economic Police Department of the Cần Thơ City Police, said in the first six months of the year, police discovered 58 smuggling cases and arrested 50 smugglers, confiscating 77,000 packages of cigarettes.

The smuggled cigarettes were usually split into small parcels and disguised carefully, he added.

On January 1, the Criminal Law officially took effect. It stipulates that the act of smuggling of cigarettes of 1,500 bags or more will be subject to criminal liability.

Despite this, the situation has worsened, especially in border areas.

One problem is the Government plan to increase the special consumption tax for cigarettes to 75 per cent.

According to the association, VNĐ300 billion has been allocated for anti-smoking programmes, but none of the amount is used for prevention of cigarette smuggling.