Indonesia cigarettes smuggled into Hyderabad

Packs come minus the pictorial warning

Hyderabad: After gold, now cigarette packets made in Indonesia, without pictorial description of lung cancer, are the most smuggled goods through the Hyderabad airport.

While Osmangunj, Begumbazaar and Monda Market in the city are the wholesale hubs of illegal foreign cigarette, most pan shops in the city are also openly selling the cigarettes illegally.

Indonesian cigarette brands like Djarum Black and Gudang Garam are smuggled in by non-declaration and concealment. They do not carry warnings or have only minimal cautionary messages unlike that stipulated under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2006.

The smuggling has picked up since the Centre ruled that all makers had to use pictorial warnings.

Apart from evasion of customs duty, smuggling of cigarettes poses a threat to the anti-tobacco initiative taken up by both the Centre and state governments.

Hyderabad customs commissioner N. Sridhar said , “Gold and foreign cigarettes are the most smuggled goods caught at the airport now. At Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) alone, we have confiscated at least 1 lakh cigarettes in the recent past, all of the brands are mostly from Indonesia.”

“Smokers prefer these brands as they don’t have pictorial descriptions and they are under the false impression that these cigarettes are healthy,”he added.

The cigarettes are smuggled into the country not only through airports but also through seaports in Gujarat and AP. They reach Hyderabad via Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

When DC checked with various pan shops in Secunderabad, Tarnaka and Begumpet, it was found that many of them were selling these smuggled cigarettes in violation of labeling rules.

A paan shop owner on SD Road in Secunderabad said, “Each packet of Djarum Black costs around Rs 180 and Gudang Garam around Rs 120. A lot of smokers are preferring these brands of late.”

Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials in the last week of October had arrested six persons who were smuggling cigarettes worth around Rs60 lakh through air cargo at RGIA.

Cigarettes are smuggled in the guise of paper, spares and computer parts in the name of fake companies.

Less clarity over law helps spur illegal trade

Though smuggled Indonesian cigarettes are openly sold in wholesale and retail markets in Hyderabad and in cities like Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam in AP, no action has been initiated so far by various agencies directly and indirectly linked to tobacco control.

Officials of various departments have no clarity on the legal position though the COPTA (Cigarettes and other Tobacco products Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, gives jurisdiction to the police and the Food and Drug Control Authority.

In 2011, the Food Safety and Standards organisation (FSSAI) was founded. FSSAI and GHMC food inspectors work in tandem in implementation of the regular food safety Acts.

GHMC food inspector Balaji Raju said, “We take action against pan shops if they don’t have licenses and also when they lack sanitation. Regarding no health warning on cigarette packets, we can book cases under the 1955 Food Safety Act. We need to refer to the Act for further clarity on sections and sub sections.”

The 2008 rules of cigarette packing and labeling put onus on the importer to have warnings as per notification. Police too are unaware of their role.

A Hyderabad city task force official said, “If it is tax evasion, the central agencies have to take care of it. If there is a cheating angle involved, we will book cases. We are not aware of these Indonesian smuggled cigarettes. However, we will look into it.”

Health authorities of Telangana, meanwhile, said they had nothing to do with implementation of labeling and packaging rules.

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( Source : deccan chronicle )
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