17,159 booked over illegal ciggies

17,159 booked over illegal ciggies
Illegal cigarette peddlers have taken to modifying common objects like flower pots to hide their contraband cigarettes.

KUALA LUMPUR - A total of 17,139 summons nationwide have been issued by the Health Ministry and other government agencies to those caught selling, purchasing or possessing illicit cigarettes under the amended Control of Tobacco Product Regulations (CTPR) 2004.

CTPR, which came into force on Jan 1, states that no person shall sell or offer for sale, buy or has in his possession any packet or carton of cigarette that is not printed with the required text and health warning images as specified in the regulation.

According to the ministry's disease control division director Dr Chong Chee Kheong (pic), the offence notices were issued following 3,493 enforcement operations up until May.

Regulation 15 is the requirement for the labelling and packaging for the cigarette packet or carton, and any packaging which does not comply with this requirement are considered as illegal or contraband, added Dr Chong.

"This regulation complements the Customs Act 1967 when it comes to curbing illicit cigarettes, and the enforcement of this regulation has been always been carried out together with other enforcement agencies focusing on tobacco control regulations," he said.

The other agencies are the Customs Department, the Domestic Trade, Co­ope­ratives and Consumerism Ministry, as well as the Malaysian Maritime En­­forcement Agency.

"As the Health Ministry has a limited jurisdiction under the CTPR 2004, which is only at the seller and consumer level, the (interagency) cooperation has enabled the Government to identify and combat the entire supply chain right up to the suppliers," said Dr Chong, who added that public awareness is just as important as enforcement.

"We hope smokers understand that buying or possessing even one stick of illicit cigarette is an offence," he said.

On another front, which focused on vendors, the Customs Depart-ment has seized more than RM7mil worth of illicit cigarettes with unpaid duty totalling RM66.57mil under Ops Outlet.

Customs director-general Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad said under Section 135(1)(d) of the Customs Act 1967, those caught selling the contraband item face a maximum three years imprisonment or a fine of up to 20 times the value of the seized items, or both.

"Currently, 35 per cent of the cigarettes on sale in the country are contraband, and we aim to reduce the number to at least 30 per cent this year," he said.

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