Home / News / India /  Illegal trade of cigarettes skyrockets during pandemic

Illegal cigarette trade in India shot up in the pandemic year FY21 with the value of illegal cigarettes seized set to record highest level in last five years, according to data presented in Lok Sabha on Wednesday by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

As per data provided by Central Board of Indirect taxes and Customs (CBIC), till 21 February of FY21, 1772 crore worth cigarettes were seized. This is almost ten times higher than the seizure in FY20 worth 188 crore. Previously, in FY16 and FY18, government seized cigarettes worth 2396 crore and 1893 crore respectively. Value of seizures includes both smuggling across borders and domestic tax evasion.

Answering a question by Lok Sabha member from BJP Jagdambika Pal, minister of state in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Som Prakash said CBIC has informed that World Health Organisation estimated illicit cigarette in India at 6% of the markets in 2016-17.

“The field formations of Central Board of Indirect taxes and Customs (CBIC) and the Directorate General of Revenue Intelligence (DGRI) keep constant vigil on the illicit imports/smugglings of cigarettes. On detection of cases, strict action is taken in accordance with the Customs Act, 1962 and other existing provisions of laws, as applicable. Further, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has acceded to the Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products as adopted under Article 15 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), to which India is a party, to develop the tracking and tracing mechanism," Som Prakash said.

Section-7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 stipulates that no person shall, directly or indirectly, produce, supply or distribute cigarettes or any other tobacco products unless every package of cigarettes or any other tobacco products produced, supplied or distributed by him bears the specified warning on its label. States/UTs of Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Mizoram, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh have issued specific notifications for prohibiting sale of loose cigarettes and tobacco products.

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