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High taxes mean high times for the illicit tobacco trade in Hong Kong

| September 11, 2014

One out of three cigarettes smoked in Hong Kong last year was illicit, according to a story in the South China Morning Post citing a study by two overseas think tanks.

The displacement of licit by illicit cigarettes was said to have cost the government more than HK$3.2 billion in ‘lost tax revenue’.

The multi-state Illicit Tobacco Indicator study conducted by UK-based Oxford Economics and the US-based International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) suggested that the illicit cigarette consumption rate in Hong Kong accounted for up to 33.6 percent of the 1.8 billion cigarettes smoked there last year.

Of the 14 countries studied, Hong Kong had the third highest consumption rate after Brunei and Malaysia, which ranked first and second, respectively.

The findings were contested by the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health. A study carried out by the council and the University of Hong Kong showed the illicit-cigarette consumption rate during 2012 was between 8.3 percent and 14.0 percent.

The report by ITIC and Oxford Economics for the same year suggested the figure was 35.9 percent.

ITIC president, Daniel Witt, was quoting as saying the high rate of illicit-cigarette consumption last year was caused by substantial tax increases on cigarettes, which had forced smokers to seek a cheaper alternative. He said cigarette taxes had risen by 50 percent between 2008 and 2009.

Witt was said to have ‘shrugged off’ suggestions that the study could be biased because it was partly funded by Philip Morris International.

Huge warnings to appear on Thai packs

| September 11, 2014

A law requiring the inclusion of graphic health warnings that take up 85 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs is due to come into force in Thailand on September 24, according to a National News Bureau of Thailand story.

The new warnings, which come in 10 varieties, are said to be the biggest to be required anywhere.

Failure to display the new warnings will leave the malefactor liable to fines of up to 20,000 baht.

A quit-smoking hotline number is also due to be shown on packs, presumably in small letters.

Vietnam’s smuggling season in full swing

| September 11, 2014

Vietnam is on high alert for the Mekong Delta flooding season, which usually occurs from September to November. Partly, this vigilance is about watching for tobacco smugglers, who can take advantage of the waterways formed by the flooding.

But they hardly need to wait for the flooding season. According to a story, already this year Vietnam has demonstrated that it has a thriving tobacco smuggling trade.

Nearly 8,000 incidences of smuggling were discovered during the first eight months of this year, bizhub reported, citing figures from the Market Watch Department of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The authorities were said to have already dealt with 4,700 cases, imposing VND14 billion (US$636,000) in fines and confiscating one million packs of smuggled tobacco, along with eight cars, 432 motorbikes and seven boats that were used to transport the products.

Only 21 cases were prosecuted, however, because those transporting fewer than 1,500 packs of cigarettes are not subject to criminal prosecution.

The report quoted the chairman of the Viet Nam Tobacco Association, Vu Van Cuong, as saying that profits from smuggling tobacco had doubled in recent years; so more people were becoming involved, finding new roads and waterways across borders, and transporting under 1,500 packs of cigarettes at a time to avoid criminal prosecution if caught.

And what had become a border-town activity had now spread across the country, Cuong added.

Online registration to close Monday

| September 11, 2014

Online registration for next month’s CORESTA (Co-operation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco) Congress, which is available at, is due to close on September 15.

After that date, only onsite registration will be available.

The congress is due to be held at the Château Frontenac, Québec City, Canada, on October 12-16.

The theme of the congress is ‘Building on experience to shape the future’.

Zambian growers felt betrayed by prices

| September 10, 2014

Two thousand Zambian tobacco growers have become members of the Western Tobacco Growers’ Union (WTGU), which was officially registered as a society on August 15, according to a story by Gift Chanda and Stuart Lisulo for the Zambia Post.

The farmers’ union was formed after a season in which growers were paid poor prices on the back of low demand.

The tobacco producers were said to have felt betrayed when the country’s auction floors opened with very few offers and some of those as low as 30 cents per kg for the lowest grades.

Farmers said the lowest grades of tobacco should have fetched 90 cents per kg.

The WTGU, which is in the process of affiliating to the Zambia National Farmers’ Union, has been set up to protect the interests of tobacco farmers.

Dutch antis suing government

| September 10, 2014

The Rookpreventie Jeugd (youth smoking prevention foundation) is suing the Dutch government over its relationship with the tobacco industry, according to a story by Janene Van Jaarsveldt for the NL Times

The government is accused of not complying with the World Health Organization’s international anti-tobacco treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, because it is allowing the tobacco industry to influence anti-tobacco policies.

The foundation’s website,, claims that the government invites the tobacco industry to present its positions during policy development.

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