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$5.4m in Tobacco Fines, Fees

$5.4m in Tobacco Fines, Fees
Ministry of Health, Tobacco Control Unit senior officer Naibuka Waqa and World Health technical officer Ada Moadsiri discuss the protocol to eliminate the illicit trade in tobacco products to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in Suva on June 5, 2018. Photo: Nacanieli Tuilevuka
June 08
11:00 2018

Since 2011, 1476 people were successfully prosecuted in court for illicit trade in to­bacco products.

$5,468,689.77 in revenue was gen­erated from fines and fees.

Naibuka Waqa, senior officer To­bacco Control Enforcement Unit of the Ministry of Health and Medi­cal Services, released the figures before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in Suva earlier this week.

Mr Waqa said the cases were a major breakthrough for the minis­try in its campaign to discourage smoking because of its associated health problems such as heart dis­ease, cancer and diabetes.

He said illicit tobacco was cheap, not properly labelled and did not carry the health warning sign. It came to Fiji in ships, mostly fish­ing vessels.

“It increases tobacco consump­tion. Currently, nearly half of the adult population smokes. In recent years there have been a growing number of observed incidents related to illicit trade of tobacco products in the Pacific, including Fiji,” Mr Waqa said.

“It increases the accessibility and affordability of tobacco products, thus undermining tobacco control policies and severely burdening health systems

“In addition, illicit trade leads to significant revenue losses for gov­ernments. The elimination of all forms of illicit trade, including smuggling and illegal manufactur­ing, is therefore an essential com­ponent of tobacco control

“Fiji has made significant strides in protecting and promoting health through tobacco control as evident by the significant reduction in cur­rent adult tobacco smoking from 42.4 per cent in 2002 to 30.8 per cent in 2011.

“Tobacco is an addictive sub­stance and about 30 per cent of the adult population use tobacco in Fiji. Disease and illness caused by tobacco harms our society and economy.”

Mr Waqa said illicit trade prod­ucts were either seized or redirect­ed to other countries.

“We are working closely with Fiji police on all enforcement ac­tivities, Fiji Revenue Customs and Services on cases of illicit trade in tobacco products,” he said.

“The other agency we are work­ing with is the National Substance Abuse Advisory Council to assist with community education or awareness programme on tobacco use and municipalities councils in enforcement of smoke free zones.

“Also the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions on court ap­pearance on certain matters and advice on legal issues.”

The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products is a 2012 World Health Organisation treaty is designed to combat the world­wide illicit tobacco trade.

It aims to combat the illegal trade in tobacco products through con­trol of the supply chain and en­hanced international co-operation, thereby protecting people around the world from the health risks of tobacco, ensuring that all Customs, excise and other tax revenues due are collected and accounted for, and reducing the burden on na­tional health systems.

In recent years, World Health technical officer Ada Moadsiri said there had been a growing number of observed incidents related to il­licit trade of tobacco products in the Pacific, including Fiji.

“Taking steps to eliminate the il­licit trade of tobacco would mean that Fiji will strengthen its protec­tion of public revenues and will receive the greatest benefit possi­ble from tobacco tax revenue,” Dr Moadsiri.

“If illicit trade is prevented, there would be a reduced supply of cheap tobacco available, thereby reducing tobacco consumption and averting preventable disease and further.

“Tobacco control measures on legally traded products, such as graphic health warning and to­bacco tax increases, will be more likely to achieve their intended effect which is reduce demand for tobacco,” she said.

Fiji is the only Pacific Island state that has signed the protocol.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: nacanieli.tuilevuka@fijisun.com.fj

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