No plans to end duty-free cig­a­rettes sales: says MOF

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY STEPHANIE CHAO

The Min­istry of Fi­nance (MOF) has no plans to end duty-free to­bacco sales at air­ports or fur­ther re­strict the im­port of cig­a­rettes, of­fi­cials an­nounced yesterday fol­low­ing spec­u­la­tion about the is­sue by lo­cal media. Na­tional Trea­sury Agency ( ) of­fi­cial Hsieh Chih-tung ( ) stated that the the MOF will con­tinue cur­rent reg­u­la­tions and “has no plans of mak­ing any changes as of now.”

End­ing sales of duty-free to­bacco at air­ports and in­tro­duc­ing tighter lim­i­ta­tions on the num­ber of cig­a­rettes that can be brought into Tai­wan were sug­ges­tions brought for­ward by health of­fi­cials dur­ing a to­bacco con­trol meet­ing, a Cab­i­net- hosted meet­ing held at the end of June. Amend­ments were to be made to reg­u­la­tions un- der the To­bacco and Al­co­hol Tax.

Stricter rules on cig­a­rettes in­cluded low­er­ing the max­i­mum num­ber of cig­a­rettes brought into Tai­wan to 19 in­di­vid­ual cig­a­rettes, es­sen­tially ban­ning cig­a­rettes from en­ter­ing the coun­try at all.

Ac­cord­ing to a study con­ducted by the MOF, many coun­tries world­wide con­tinue to let trav­el­ers carry a sin­gle cig­a­rette or one liter of al­co­hol upon en­ter­ing a coun­try. While to­bacco im­ports are com­pletely banned in Sin­ga­pore, a max­i­mum of 19 in­di­vid­ual cig­a­rettes are al­lowed into Hong Kong.

“Based on in­ter­na­tional prac­tices and mu­tual re­spect in in­ter­na­tional trade re­la­tions,” the MOF stated, “the cur­rent to­bacco and al­co­hol tax reg­u­la­tions will be main­tained for now,” as a uni­lat­eral change to the rules on bring­ing to­bacco and al­co­hol would be “un­wise.”

The MOF also stated that the fea­si­bil­ity of mak­ing the le­gal amend­ments and ex­e­cut­ing such changes are mat­ters to think about as well, apart from con­sid­er­ing in­ter­na­tional prac­tices and reg­u­la­tions.

Fi­nan­cial of­fi­cials cited the dif­fi­culty of im­ple­ment­ing the pos­si­ble reg­u­la­tions, as the changes will in­volve a num­ber of gov­ern­men­tal sec­tors, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Trea­sury Agency, in charge of mak­ing reg­u­la­tory amend­ments, Tax­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in charge of col­lect­ing taxes, and the Cus­toms Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in im­ple­ment­ing any changes.

Good for Anti-To­bacco

Con­trol Cause

The pro­pos­als for can­cel­ing and im­ple­ment­ing re­stric­tions on cig­a­rettes brought into Tai­wan were sup­ported by the Health Pro­mo­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (HPA).

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal media, Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of the Health Pro­mo­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion Chiou Shuti ( ) stated that Tai­wan’s cig­a­rette per bag prices were rel­a­tively low, at NT$74 on av­er­age, com­pared with Thai­land’s NT$81 and Malaysia’s NT$100.

Chiou pointed out that Tai­wan’s duty- free cig­a­rette prices were ranked among the low­est world­wide, which re­sulted in many for­eign tourists buy­ing Tai­wan’s duty-free to­bacco as gifts. The end of sales of tax-free to­bacco would be an im­por­tant step in the to­bacco con­trol ef­fort, Chiou said.

Peo­ple have also used trav­el­ing abroad as a chance to buy and re­sell duty-free to­bacco in bulk, which is a vi­o­la­tion of the law on selling smug­gled to­bacco, stated Chiou, cit­ing this is­sue among the rea­sons to can­cel duty-free to­bacco sales. The MOF promised to con­sider in­creas­ing the fine for re­selling to­bacco dur­ing the meet­ing.

One liter of liquor prod­uct ( re­gard­less of the quan­tity of bot­tles), 200 in­di­vid­ual cig­a­rettes, 25 in­di­vid­ual cigars or a pound of to­bacco are the cur­rent max­i­mum quan­ti­ties en­forced on pas­sen­gers ar­riv­ing in Tai­wan. How­ever, such priv­i­leges are re­stricted to adult pas­sen­gers, aged 20 and above.

Ac­cord­ing to the cur­rent To­bacco and Al­co­hol Tax Act Ar­ti­cle 5, goods that are brought in from abroad such as per­sonal ef­fects of ei­ther trav­el­ers or crewmem­bers for per­sonal use, whose quan­tity does not ex­ceed the lim­i­ta­tions pre­scribed by the gov­ern­ment, are ex­empt from the act’s re­stric­tions.

CNA

An in­bound trav­eler buys to­bacco prod­ucts at Tai­wan Taoyuan In­ter­na­tional Air­port in this un­dated photo. Upon hear­ing about the pos­si­ble can­ce­la­tion of du­tyfree to­bacco prod­ucts at air­ports — a sug­ges­tion made at a Cab­i­net meet­ing — trav­el­ers ex­pressed their sur­prise, stat­ing that busi­nesses wouldn’t able to op­er­ate un­der such reg­u­la­tions.

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