The Tobacco Institute of India have urged the government to enforce high taxation on the cigarette smuggling syndicates under the GST norms aimed at curbing the illegal industry.
The TII — a representative body of manufacturers, farmers, exporters — has also said that the step will provide relief to distressed tobacco farmers, the legal cigarette industry and also inject buoyancy in revenue collection from this sector.
India is the fourth largest illegal cigarette market in the world. Legal cigarettes in India accounts for just 11 per cent of the overall tobacco consumption.
The rest 89 per cent is represented by traditional products like chewing tobacco and ‘bidis’. “The Goods and Services Tax bill presents a unique opportunity to the government to address the growing illegal trade in the country,” said Syed Mahmood Ahmad, Director, TII
He said that recent seizures of smuggled cigarettes by enforcement agencies are only “the tip of the iceberg of a much larger and threatening operation”.
On March 17, Customs officials seized illegal cigarettes worth Rs 10.38 lakhs in Coimbatore soon after seizing Rs 38.65 lakhs on March 15.
On March 3,Directorate of Revenue (DRI) officials arrested three individuals for illegal possession of a large consignment of foreign brands worth Rs 15 crore in Noida.
On January 31, smuggled cigarettes valued at Rs 2.2 crore was seized in separate raids at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port. On January 3, a joint team of State Tobacco Control and the police intercepted cigarette packs being sold openly in a Chandigarh mall without the required pictorial warning.
Illegal trade in cigarettes in the last five years has seen a huge surge. A report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) estimates the overall market for illegal cigarettes in India at a significant 20.2 per cent, resulting in a huge revenue loss of Rs 9,139 crore to the national exchequer.