Vietnam loses VND 10,000 billion due to illegal tobacco import

20:58 08/09/2017

PSNews-Although the Government revised the regulations to punish more seriously tobacco smuggling activities in 2014, the situation still sees complex developments.

Smuggled cigarettes currently account for about 20% of the market share, causing a loss of up to VND 10,000 billion each year to the national budget. Therefore, as one of the pioneers in the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Vietnam is especially concerned about the tobacco smuggling situation.

Representatives of the Vietnam Tobacco Association said that, since 2014, the amount of smuggled tobacco has increased rapidly (about 1 billion packs of cigarettes). The 2014 Oxford Economics Report also shows that Vietnam has become a leading cigarette consumption market among 14 surveyed countries and territories in Asia.

Particularly, in 2016 and the first 6 months of 2017, illegal trade of tobacco continued rising.

Since January 2017, functional forces nationwide have seized and destroyed 3,195,150 packs of smuggled cigarettes of all kinds. However, the number of smuggled cigarettes into Vietnam is predicted to increase sharply in the remaining months of 2017.

In fact, smuggling of cigarettes, especially in the southwestern border areas, continues to be a pressing issue, putting an increasing pressure on the authorities. The border provinces of Kien Giang, An Giang, Dong Thap and Tay Ninh remain safe haven for tobacco smugglers.

Particularly, the 133-kilometer borderline between the Vietnamese province of An Giang and Cambodia is considered the most bustling area of tobacco smuggling.

At the Tinh Bien Border Gate in An Giang, located just 10 km from Chau Doc city, all activities of tourism, trade and travel through the border gate happen normally until  dusk of the day.

In the dark, groups of smugglers start their illegal activities, transporting a huge amount of smuggled goods on border-crossing tracks.

Smugglers may hire local youths who run motorbikes at a high speed to distract functional forces. When they are chased by law enforcement forces, they will cross the border. Even if they are arrested, they will only be given administrative fines.

Smugglers can also set up networks, use fine tricks , and fight back functional forces fiercely.

Although domestic production of tobacco is under the State’s strict management and bound with various legal regulations, illegal trade of tobacco is still increasing, causing a loss of tens of thousands of billions of Vietnamese dongs to the State budget each year.

In addition to  tax evasion, illegally imported cigarettes pose great threats to public health as the smuggled cigarettes’ quality, food safety and hygiene are not controlled by relevant agencies. Therefore, the fight against the smuggling of cigarettes requires the participation of the whole society.

According to the Institute of Tobacco of Vietnam, certain types of illegally imported cigarettes in the domestic market contain a high level of the toxic chemical of Coumarin. The  substance is banned from food manufacturing by the Ministry of Health. Coumarin existing in illegally imported cigarettes is used to make the cigarettes stronger and more flavorful. By doing so, the manufacturers aim to increase consumption of their products despite  harms to local smokers, particularly pregnant women. 

By Duy Tien