Let’s not kid ourselves, duty-paid cigarettes are hella expensive as the government continuously attempts to reduce the number of smokers in our country. Sadly, raising taxes on tobacco will do nothing at all as consumers have long found a way to get their nicotine fix at a cheaper price, which is through contraband cigarettes.
According to Astro Awani and Harian Metro, a packet of ‘duty-free’ cigarettes costs anywhere between RM3 and RM7, which is why a whopping 60 per cent of cigarettes in the market are contraband. In fact, many smokers now are actually smoking more frequently than ever because the illegal ones are so much more affordable.
While the consumers are busy puffing away, our government is actually losing a lot of money. Earlier, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng revealed that the federal government loses over RM5 billion each year in terms of annual tax loss.
RM5 billion is certainly not a negligible amount especially for a country that has a RM1 trillion national debt. As such, the government especially the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (Customs) has been urged to beef up the crackdown on illegal cigarettes.
To give more teeth to the law, Director General of Customs Datuk Seri T Subromaniam recommended a heavy penalty to be imposed on the sellers. “Even if the premise only sells one carton of illegal cigarettes or a bottle of smuggled alcohol, (the seller) will be fined at least RM100,000,” he said.With that said, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng stated on 10 December that in the revised Customs Act 1967, those found guilty of selling contraband cigarettes will now face much higher penalties. The penalties are as mentioned below;
- Minimum fine: At least 10 times the customs duties amount or RM100,000, whichever is higher
- Maximum fine: 20 times the customs duties amount or RM500,000, whichever is higher
- Or a prison term between six months and five years
- Minimum fine: At least 20 times the customs duties amount or RM200,000, whichever is higher
- Maximum fine: 40 times the customs duties amount or RM1 million, whichever is higher
- Or a prison term between six months and five years
Some netizens hoped that other punishments such as caning could also be imposed on these offenders to ensure that illegal cigarettes will be rid of from our country once and for all.
It’s high time our government paid close attention to this issue and increased their efforts to fight against illegal cigarettes as the number of illegal cigarettes being sold in the market has reached a critical level. Just so you know, Malaysia has one of the highest illegal cigarette trade in the world. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Even citizens themselves are hoping for immediate changes to be implemented to curb these cigarettes from going around in our country. A recent poll done by Harian Metro revealed that:
- 85% out of 3.3k Malaysians think our border control is not strict enough, thus causing cartels to easily smuggle contraband cigarettes in
- 74% out of 2.7k Malaysians feel the need for the government to impose heavier penalties on this illegal trade
- 85% out of 2.8k Malaysians think that these illegal products are detrimental to the country’s economy and safety
Hopefully, the newly elected federal government could make a difference and intensify their effort in cracking down contraband cigarettes before it’s too late.
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