NEW DELHI: Cigarette smuggling into the country increased four-fold (by value) between 2012 and 2014, seizure data from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) shows. The data has been cited in a latest draft working paper prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) to contend that illicit trade in tobacco products undermines tobacco control policies and leads to significant revenue loss.
WHO has pegged the import duty evasion from smuggling cigarettes into the country at Rs 2,363 crore for 2014-15.
According to the paper, titled ‘Illicit Tobacco Trade In India: Forms, Trends and Potential Actions’, the smuggled cigarettes are suspected to be from Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China and the United Arab Emirates and common transit points are Delhi, Singapore and Dubai.
“In the south-east Asia region, many countries have porous borders that provide easy opportunity for the smuggling of tobacco products. All south-east Asian countries have enacted stringent laws to control tobacco consumption – both on pricing and sale of tobacco products in-country as well as against import of foreign brands – and despite these efforts, there is still a thriving trade in smuggled tobacco products,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO in south-east Asia region, said.
Singh said illegal trade of tobacco products facilitated increased use of tobacco by youth and adults from low-income groups by bringing down the cost and making them more accessible. Moreover, health regulations such as pictorial warnings or increased taxes are also not applied on illegal products.
The government has been stressing on the need to curb illegal trade of tobacco products. “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,” health secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma said.