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Rampant smuggling, so Labuan fags costlier
Published on: Friday, March 14, 2014

Labuan: The price of premium brand cigarettes such as Dunhill and Salem has increased by 70 sen per 20 stick pack from RM6.40 to RM7, meaning each cigarette in duty-free Labuan would cost 35 sen.

According to the distributor of the two brands of cigarettes, the increase was because of mounting operational costs on legal sales due to a high level of illicit trade in the market.

Such rampant smuggling especially of cigarettes and beer is no secret.

Former Federal Territories Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin had two years ago, due to the "uncontrollable smuggling", suggested the free port status of the island be reviewed with the duty-free status of the two items scrapped.

However, this was strongly opposed and the Finance Ministry did not implement the recommendation.

Last year in October, it was reported that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) confiscated various controlled and duty-free items in the region of RM6 million between 2006 and 2013.

This was excluding the confiscation made by other agencies like the Customs and Marine Police.

There has been a spate of such seizures this year as well.

Will the increased cost of cigarettes have an impact on the sales of the item? Many don't think so.

The owner of Bintang CafŽ, Bernard Wong, said: "Our sales have not dropped. Apparently addicted smokers find it hard to kick off the habit besides there are other brands of cigarettes available at RM1.30 or so per pack."

The Government had introduced horrific graphics on cigarette packets and held "No Smoking" campaigns, but these had all not worked and so would the increased price, said some.

Despite the increase, similar brands of cigarettes are still cheaper than mainland by RM5 per pack.

Fags would remain a worthwhile buy for visitors and also unlikely end the illicit trade of it.

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