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VN fears of smuggled cigarettes ‘unrealistic’

Vietnamese construction workers smoke cigarettes during a break in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012.
Vietnamese construction workers smoke cigarettes during a break in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012. AFP

VN fears of smuggled cigarettes ‘unrealistic’

Traders in Vietnam are preparing to intercept increasingly sophisticated methods of smuggling cigarettes from Cambodia as imports peak ahead of Lunar New Year in February, according to Vietnamese media, though local observers characterised Vietnam’s concerns as overblown.

Between October 2014 and September 2015, Ho Chi Minh City authorities reported busting nearly 1.5 million contraband packets allegedly smuggled through new routes taking advantage of waterways along the border, tourist buses and private taxis.

Long Sreng, deputy director of Cambodia’s Interior Ministry anti-economic crime police department was unable to confirm the smuggling statistics. However, representatives of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) cast doubt on figures reported in Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese government owns a monopoly on tobacco there and normally relies on industry data,” said Yul Dorotheo, a SEATCA program director, noting that there was no data to suggest that smuggling was on the increase. “The same argument is made when the government tries to increase the tax rate on cigarettes.”

Dorotheo claimed that the most effective preventative measure by both the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments would be to ratify the anti-smuggling measures outlined in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which neither government has done.

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