The alarming rise in seizures of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes by customs and police authorities highlights the need for stricter penalties to combat cigarette smuggling, according to Winston and Camel maker JT International (Philippines) Inc. (JTIP).
JTIP general manager Manos Koukourakis said the presence of smuggled and fake tobacco in some areas of the country are indicative that both local and foreign-based smuggling syndicates continue to operate despite intensified efforts to curb the illegal trade in cigarettes.
“While we are part of the solution by tracking and tracing our brands and sharing information with customs, unfortunately the illegal trade in tobacco products continues to flourish,” Koukourakis said.
He said the illegal trade represents 12 percent of the worldwide market and above 15 percent in the Philippines
According to the World Customs Organization, illegal tobacco has a corrosive effect on the community, reduces tax revenues and harms legitimate business.
“JTI is fully committed to supporting police and customs. We are 100 percent in support of the BIR’s (Bureau of Internal Revenue) tax stamp project to check against tax evasion and smuggling in cigarettes,” Koukourakis said.
Countries that ratified the global World Health Organization Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products will never be truly effective unless governments work together with tobacco manufacturers.
One part of the protocol where governments must work closely with manufacturers is in implementing track and trace technology on their products.
By the end of this year, JTI will reach 90-percent coverage capacity of track and trace technology in its worldwide cigarette production.
Counterfeit and illegal tobacco raids are becoming bigger as syndicates and their cohorts try to circumvent the law with promises of huge returns on peddling smuggled and counterfeit tobacco.