Desperation Builds Up With Sky-High Smokes

Bandar Seri Begawan – The recent hike in cigarette prices has undoubtedly caused a spike in smuggling attempts whilst also drawing questions from the public of its effectiveness in reducing the number of smokers in the country.

Customs officials in the last two months have foiled numerous attempts by individuals who have tried smuggling in cartons of cheap Malaysian duty free cigarettes – in the hundreds in some cases -mainly from across the Limbang border which is relatively close to Brunei and easy to enter.

The November 1, 201 0 amendment of Brunei’s Customs Import Duties (amendment) Order 2010 and the Excise Duties (amendment) Order 2010, slapped an extra 25cents duty on each cigarette being brought into the country.

Do the math and the duty imposed on every pack of cigarettes containing 20 sticks would work out to be a hefty five dollars a pack.

On November 14, a 36-year-old local man was fined $38,000 after being caught trying to smuggle 128 cartons of cigarettes into the Sultanate from Limbang.

On November 24, a 48-year-old woman was fined $3,500 after trying to smuggle in 11 cartons of cigarettes, which were hidden in different parts of her vehicle.

Last Tuesday, a 53-year-old Malaysian man who was on his way to Brunei from Miri, Sarawak told officers he had nothing to declare.

But after a thorough search, customs officers found 77 cartons of cigarettes that were hidden in various inconspicuous compartments of the vehicle.

Two days ago, the Belait Customs and Excise officers caught a Malaysian woman trying to smuggle in 50 cartons of cigarettes after making claims that she intended to bring the contraband to neighbouring Limbang.

Officials believe that she may have been trying to restock for the suspected bustling “underground” nicotine market, which many believe was a direct result of the tax levy, which saw prices increase by over a 100 per cent.

“What makes these people take the risk over and over again? Desperation,” says one observer.

“There will always be a market as long as there’s demand. And in some cases, raising prices does not always lower the demand,” he said.

Another observer said that comprehensive bans on cigarette advertising and promotion can reduce smoking, but more limited partial bans have little or no effect.

“The black market benefits from consumers.

If smokers are addicted, they will respond relatively slowly to price increases, but their response will be greater in the long term.

Another issue that the government has to face with when it decides to increase tobacco tax is the impact on employment.

In addition, the government also tries to use restrictions on smoking at work sites and public places.

Therefore, when four firms control over 40 per cent of a market, then it is an oligopoly,” he said.

“A cigarette tax increase may reduce smoking rates among young people, pregnant women and other age groups because they have lower disposable incomes, and partly because some may, as yet, be less heavily addicted to nicotine, partly because of their more present-oriented behaviour, and partly because they are more susceptible to peer influences.”

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recently reported that more high school students are taking up smoking, despite stepped-up antismoking campaigns.

Their figures show that the number of high school students who smoke rose by nearly a third over the last six years, and the number of first-time teenage smokers has risen 73 per cent in the 1990s, according to the CDC, topping one million a year.

In the 1990’s, nearly 3,000 American youngsters become regular smokers each day.

By 2003, those numbers had doubled to nearly 6,000 children starting to smoke each day.

For developing nations, however, a slightly different trend was observed by a European research body who found that a 10 per cent increase in price would reduce the average number of cigarettes consumed by young smokers by 12 per cent.

Overall, a 10 per cent increase in cigarette price would reduce youth cigarette demand by 18.3 per cent.


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