Cigarette seized in a smuggling ring (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Cigarette smuggling has caused a loss of thousands of billions of Vietnamese dong each year for the State, according to figures released by the Vietnam Tobacco Association at a symposium held on July 23 in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

The tobacco industry contributes around 20 trillion VND (864.76 million USD) to the State revenue annually, and has created jobs for millions of workers, helping eliminate hunger and reduce poverty, according to the Vietnam Tobacco Association.

However, while the production and trading of cigarettes in the country is strictly managed by law, cigarette smuggling has increased, causing losses to the State.

According to Nguyen Triet, General Secretary of the Vietnam Tobacco Association, despite strict laws, cigarette smugglers have become more difficult to handle because cigarettes are light, easily transported, and bring high profits.

Cigarettes are subject to a range of taxes, including 70 percent special consumption tax, 10 percent value added tax, and 135 percent import tax.

Smugglers of cigarettes are mainly jobless residents living on the border, mostly with Cambodia, who know the area well and understand the language of the bordering country.

The smugglers are also willing to fight back to escape from authorised forces.

In March, policemen were seriously injured by groups of smugglers after they were caught and held in detention in Dong Nai and Binh Duong provinces.

Colonel Nguyen Quoc Khoi, deputy head of the Economic Police Department of the Can Tho city Police, said in the first six months of the year, police discovered 58 smuggling cases and arrested 50 smugglers, confiscating 77,000 packages of cigarettes.

The smuggled cigarettes were usually split into small parcels and disguised carefully, he added.

On January 1, the Criminal Law officially took effect. It stipulates that the act of smuggling of cigarettes of 1,500 bags or more will be subject to criminal liability.

Despite this, the situation has worsened, especially in border areas.

One problem is the Government plan to increase the special consumption tax for cigarettes to 75 percent.

According to the association, 300 billion VND has been allocated for anti-smoking programmes, but none of the amount is used for prevention of cigarette smuggling.

The association said it would propose the Government, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance allow the association to use 50 percent of the allocated amount for smuggling prevention activities.

The meeting was organised by the Vietnam Tobacco Association in collaboration with the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee of Can Tho city.-VNS/VNA