Bandar Seri Begawan – Brunei has raised taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products with effect from today.
According to a Ministry of Finance press release, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented amendments to excise duties for winston cigarettes and tobacco products through the Customs Import Duties (Amendment) Order 2010 and Excise Duties (Amendment) Order 2010.
Under the new amendments, cigarettes will be subjected to $0.25 tax per cigarette stick compared to the previous $60 per kilogramme whilst non-manufactured tobacco and tobacco refuse will be subjected to duties totalling $60 per kilogramme compared to the previous $30 per kilogramme. Cigar, cheroots and cigarillos will also see an increase in duties from $60 per kilogramme to $120 per kilogramme and from $100 per kilogramme to $200 per kilogramme.
The press release also stated that those arriving in the Sultanate from any point of entry into the country, who is over the age of 17 and carrying with them not more than 200 sticks of cigarettes, will be exempted from import duties.
This move comes in the wake of recent enforcement conducted by the Ministry of Health officers in curbing public smoking that aims to safeguard the health of the citizens from contracting chronic diseases related to smoking.
Under the Customs Order 2006, the press release further said, the Royal Customs and Excise Department will undertake appropriate legal action upon any violations under the new amendment such as the failure to declare tobacco products at entry points into the country and other related offences.
Based on the data provided, a pack of 20 cigarettes will now incur a $5 tax. Retail prices, however, were not announced.
The Bulletin visited a number of outlets in the capital, but most were not aware of the new regulations but did state that should the import tax increase, it would also mean that the prices of cigarettes – regulated by the government – will also rise.
Reactions from the public, some of whom heard of the new amendments via Radio Television Brunei in the 8 and 10 o’clock news, are currently divided.
“Couldn’t the government follow the ways of the Malaysian authorities?” said one woman referring to Malaysia’s gradual increase of cigarette prices from less than RM5 a pack to the current RM10 over a 10-year time span.
Fully understanding the intentions of the government, she also said: “The least they could have done is to give smokers the time to adapt and to slowly kick the habit.”
Rozman, a former smoker who had his last cigarette almost two years ago, welcomed the move saying that this could be an incentive for those who have tried to quit but have failed on numerous occasions.
“Brilliant,” he said as he lauded the government’s efforts. “I also think that the government could do more and further increase the price” and follow Singapore’s footsteps as smokers there need to fork over $10 for a pack of branded cigarettes.
However, one woman pointed that despite the high price of cigarettes in Singapore, smokers are still buying them.
She suggested that if the government is serious about health issues, then relevant authorities should nip the problem in the bud and fully cease the importation of cigarettes and any other products that lead to addiction.
A mother of two young children, whose husband has been “wasting away” their income, which could be spent on her children’s education and other highly prioritised amenities, echoed what a majority of non-smokers have said: “It’s been a long time coming but … Finally.”
Following the credit card curbs geared to control the public’s spending, the housewife said that money has been tight and that her husband’s habit was not appropriate in a household that has to support a growing family.
Meanwhile, some traders, who did know about the amendments coming into force today, said that agents are currently withholding new stock until after relevant authorities have confirmed the change in prices.
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