Smuggled cigarettes hazardous to health – Thai Tobacco Trade Association
Thailand choking under cloud of illegal, untaxed smoke
Thailand is choking under a cloud of illegal, untaxed smoke from smuggled cigarettes, according to the tobacco industry.
Thai Tobacco Trade Association (TTTA) director Thanyasarun Sangthong is worried about the health of the nation’s children. Only genuine cigarettes can keep them safe, she says.
Sales of smuggled cigarettes have increased online due to low operational costs – paying no tax is quite effective in this regard. There is also no telling what you might be smoking as the black market is not subject to inspection by police or customs.
“Illegal tobacco sellers can access as many different groups of customers as they want.”
Online trade in illegal tobacco doubled from July to September last year, she said, citing findings from her own survey. The finding was blamed on contraband cigarettes being smuggled over the border. More than 99% of deals were done via Twitter (90%) or Facebook (9%).
Prohibition by price
Blowing yet more smoke, Thanyasarun said that illegal tobacco was easier to buy, especially for kids, and was popular because of its cheap price and better taste. Illegal online sellers are also free to advertise their products or cut prices, unlike their legal counterparts, she added.
The TTTA survey was conducted just after the government raised the tax on a packet of cigarettes. Cigarette taxes have grown so steep that they almost amount to “prohibition by price.” The rich are free to smoke as much as they like.
It’s just another way of making the poor poorer. And like all forms of prohibition, it leads to a spike in smuggling as smokers turn to more reasonable channels.
The consequences of smuggled cigarettes include the corruption of government officials, violence, theft, counterfeiting and dangerous, adulterated products. While high taxes are often sold as a way to finance health programs, in many cases the money goes to unrelated spending.
Consumers of smuggled cigarettes run big risks. Counterfeiting of legitimate brands is a serious problem, and the phoney filters are often adulterated with fillers containing anything from sawdust to human excrement. It’s today’s version of the toxic “bathtub” gin of the alcohol prohibition era.
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