Stubbing out tobacco smuggling

This haul of smuggled cigarettes was intercepted by NZ Customs in late 2019. Photo: Supplied.

Budget 2022 is providing investment to crackdown on tobacco smuggling into New Zealand.

“Customs has seen a significant increase in the smuggling of tobacco products into New Zealand over recent years,” says Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri.

This trend is also showing that tobacco smuggling operations are now often very sophisticated and controlled by organised criminal entities.

“We also know that as measures in the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan continue to have an impact on smoking rates, there will likely be increased demand for illegal tobacco products," says Whaitiri.

“Funding provided through Budget 2022 means Customs will be able to set-up a specialist team to strengthen investigations into tobacco smuggling to ensure more of the illicit trade is targeted and disrupted, and those doing it are caught and stopped.”

$10.398 million over four years will go into resourcing specialist investigation and enforcement capacity within Customs. This will be supported with intelligence and electronic forensic capability.

The increased focus on stopping tobacco smuggling adds to the legislative change under the Customs and Excise (Tobacco Products) Amendment Bill 2022, which changes the way excise and excise-equivalent duty is calculated on water-pipe tobacco products.

The Minister said the change to calculating duty on the weight of tobacco content in water-pipe tobacco product, which are also known as flavoured, hookah, shisha, molasses and fruit tobacco, would stop millions of dollars in possible tax evasion.

A further change in the legislation makes this a prohibited product, which means water-pipe tobacco will require an import permit.

“Both the increased focus on tobacco smuggling and changes to water-pipe tobacco products are in step with the Government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan to help people kick this harmful habit,” says Whaitiri.




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