Monday, 27 January 2020

Australia's tobacco bootleggers

In September, cigarette taxes will rise by 12.5% (plus VAT) in Australia for the eighth successive year. A pack of premium cigarettes will cost nearly $50.

The impact of these sky high prices on the smoking rate has been remarkably modest. Daily smoking prevalence has dipped from 14.5% in 2014-15 to 13.8% in 2017-18. This is less of a decline than many countries have managed without resorting to such extreme tactics, and is appreciably less than has been seen in countries which have allowed vaping to flourish (the sale of e-cig fluid is banned Down Under).

But the tax hikes have had very predictable effects in other ways...

In one month alone the Australian Border Force has seized 20 million cigarettes and almost 12 tonnes of illegal tobacco.

On June 1 2018 a joint Australian and Taiwanese operation intercepted two sea cargo containers full of black market smokes en route to Australia. 

The 20,100,000 illicit cigarettes would have resulted in about $14.2million in lost revenue, according to the ABF.

Just four days earlier ABF officers seized 1.6tonnes of illicit tobacco during a series of raids in Adelaide.

The raids came three days after another bust, this time involving about 10 tonnes of illicit tobacco.

This is going well!

Rohan Pike, who spent 25 years with the AFP and Border Force and created the Border Force’s Tobacco Strike Team, said he wasn’t surprised that smuggled cigarettes were so easy to come by.

“There were 300,000 seizures of illicit tobacco last year by the Border Force,” he said.

He said there are on average 1000 seizures a day.

Meanwhile, in Western Australia...

There has been an explosion in Australia’s tobacco black market after more than 300 tonnes of smuggled contraband was seized by officials in the past year.

Australian Border Force said the amount had tripled since 2017 as organised crime delved deeper into the illegal trade.

At this point, it would take an imbecile to deny that Australia's 'world leading' tobacco control policies has created an epidemic of black market activity.

Simon Chapman, respected tobacco control activist and health academic, said claims of a booming black market were overblown.

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