4 out of 10 cigarette packs illicit: Study


British American Tobacco (Malaysia) and Japan Tobacco International Bhd in KL have both cited a report that suggests four out of 10 packs of cigarettes are illicit.

In a press releases dated 20 October and 11 November 2010 respectively, the two cigarette firms cited an Illicit Cigarettes Study, commissioned by the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers, which revealed that the incidence of illicit cigarettes rose to 39.7 per cent during March-May 2010.

Having said that, the firm noted that “enforcement efforts have been undertaken by various Government law enforcement agencies. JTI Malaysia commends the Royal Malaysian Customs (RMC) for its successful enforcement activities todate, and supports the RMC’s continued efforts to prosecute those involved in the illicit cigarettes trade. This is in line with the recent action by the Ministry of Health which successfully prosecuted retailers caught selling illicit cigarettes.”

Of course, the two firms are concerned as their own profits (at the expense of people’s health) are affected.

And if you think these illicit cigarettes are cheap ‘pirated’ or counterfeit brands, think again.

Tobacco Asia reports:

Interestingly, counterfeit cigarettes are not the issue here. The majority of brands being sold illegally are “legitimate” products that are shipped to Malaysia tax-free by crime syndicates that earn vast sums through the trade – at the expense of the government and legitimate domestic manufacturers and importers.

“Probably the global economic slowdown has impacted the proliferation of regional brands coming in by the container load,” opined Ibrahim. “These are not counterfeit cigarettes, they are all tax unpaid, lower-priced brands from Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia.”

Illicit kretek consumption has gone up significantly over the last five years, reportedly directly related to the number of Indonesian workers in the country, many of whom entered and remain in the country illegally.

“Licit product typically sell for higher prices, illicit brands are lower quality but are significantly lower priced,” said Ibrahim. “Legal products retail between M$6-7. This is what CMTM members’ products typically retail for. The most popular illicit brands are not usually well-known international brands. Illicit brands are much lower priced and therefore attractive to lower-income smokers.”

Adding to the problem is that illicit product is widely available. Illicit retailers are earning good profits, there is a good incentive to participate. The trade is predominantly in the hands of syndicates, and distribution channels are already in place, through massage parlours and so on.. The fine for being convicted of retailing illicit cigarettes currently stands at 10 times the value of uncustomized goods seized. Accordingly, the bulk of supplies held elsewhere than with the retailer. There are retailers being caught and charged in court, but it is widely assumed that the fines are paid by the syndicates who can afford to cover this operational expense and maintain the good will and cooperation of the retailers.

Meanwhile, guess who is:

  • making a killing earning profits on illicit cigarettes;
  • perhaps collecting money from black marketeers;
  • losing massive amounts of tax money by not being able to tax all these illegal ciggies; and
  • stumping out even more cash to pay for the health costs of sick smokers when they enter hospital for treatment?

Incidentally, isn’t is also about time that some of the cigarette taxes are channelled to our public health care system to help treat those affected by smoking?

Please help to support this blog if you can.

Read the commenting guidlelines for this blog.
Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
21 Nov 2010 5.27pm

There is no way the illegal cigarette trade can grow to the extent it does without the illicit connivance of the relevant authorities. Would you believe that it would?

21 Nov 2010 9.50am

If our (officials) can allow illegals to enter our country freely while (allegedly) making the $$$, I am not surprised that (other officials) may do so for the illegal cigars for the same reason and motive.

Ong Eu Soon
21 Nov 2010 1.20am

Smoking has nothing to do with health issues. Majority of people have been fooled to believe that smoking is health hazard. I have a critically ill patient who refuse to quit smoking. Doctors blame his problem to excessive smoking. I disagree! My patient also disagree and he is on the road to recovery with high blood sugar reading of 29. My patient after gone thru’ alternative treatment stop showing any diabetic related signs except high blood sugar reading. Doctors can not explain why despite his penchant for smoking and sign of high blood sugar. After a huge drop of smoking… Read more »

20 Nov 2010 11.55am

This is a purely economic problem. When the collusion of the govt and the local manufacturers leads to high price, then another group, the smugglers who bring in the same products at cheaper price. This is part of the globalisation process. There cannot be any economic borders anymore. Why cant these selfish idiots in power understand this.

20 Nov 2010 11.40am

There is no way Bolehland can stop the sale of these illicit cigarettes…, especially (are) corrupted Institutions protecting these black marketeers(?) Obviously, Malaysia is not the only country, illicit cigarettes are openly found and sold across the counters by so many retailers in China…most of these cigarettes are from Vietnam…they did not even bother to remove the label.
One solution, don’t smoke, give it up! I stopped after more than 40 years of smoking…it is not asking one to reach an unreachable sky!

telur dua
telur dua
20 Nov 2010 10.49am

High tax and poor law enforcement encourages smuggling.