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Hong Kong – Hidden Matters (30 Jun 2004)


Statistics show that in 1995, about 400 billion cigarettes, or one-third of the world ’ s export, were unaccounted for after being shipped out of their manufacturing country. Most of the cigarettes presumably turned up as illegal contraband.Cigarette smuggling makes it ineffective to control smoking with tax. All measures aiming at exercising control on tobacco products, such as the limit on tar/nicotine content, warning messages, control on sales point, etc, are all bypassed. Contraband products also increase the number of smokers by providing a less expensive supply of cigarettes for young people. For these reasons, deterring cigarettes smuggling is pivotal in anti-smoking policy. This is in fact a critical public health issue, not just one concerning normal international trade.Last year, customs officers in Hong Kong confiscated 181 million cigarettes. Between January and August this year, 1,594 people were arrested for selling smuggled cigarettes. Among them, 1,047 were mainlanders who came to Hong Kong on a two-way exit permit. Indeed, mainland visitors , usually controlled by the Triads, offered an important source of cheap labors for cigarette smugglers, since they were poorly paid and were not afraid of leaving criminal records in Hong Kong.Since cigarette smuggling can bring about huge commercial interest, it always involves irregularities such as corruption and murder of witnesses. Governments in Europe and North America have already filed lawsuits against tobacco companies for their roles in condoning, if not abetting, cigarette smuggling activities.

Smoke Free Planet
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
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