Illegal Cigerattes In PNG Emblematic Of 'Systematic Compromise Of The Country’s Import Industry'

Local importers distributing products that may pose health hazards due to less regulation and oversight

By Nellie Setepano

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 31, 2016) – Local importers have been identified as the main perpetrators for fake and illegal products.

This has created the biggest obstacle to customs authorities to destroy what is believed to be a systematic compromise of the country’s import industry.

Officials are now in the process of identifying who they are exactly and are basing their operations on their initial information and investigations.

Papua New Guinea Customs Service has come out after issues were raised that a brand of cigarette, Double Happiness, was being sold cheaply throughout the country. This particular band does not have Government health warnings on individual packets.

Chief Commissioner for Customs Ray Paul says the fake cigarettes have already infiltrated the whole of Papua New Guinea and his authorities are desperate to track the source or distributor.

Those cigarettes coming into the country at the wharf are also declared as some other groceries or concealed under different items which make Customs officials’ work more difficult.

"They are dangerous substance but we need the public to come out and tell us who the importer or source or distributor is because we do not have the details."

"We have already started the investigations and it will take time because the public is very protective over the source importer and the distributor in Papua New Guinea because they make quick money out of this … but they do not realise this is a very dangerous health hazard," Mr Paul said.

The public has raised concerns over the sales of cheap and foreign labeled cigarettes which are currently sold widely around the country.

Mr Paul also said such product is a health hazard and people should be warned about products labeled in a foreign language.

Health Secretary Pascoe Kase said the tobacco health control laws could not survive with current challenges as more illegal cigarettes importers do not comply with health warnings.

Mr Kase said three years ago, the Health Department, Customs and Police reached an understanding to police this law but after three years, it still has challenges such as limitations that do not address many aspects of tobacco control efforts.

This has come to light after the public raised concerns over a particular brand of cigarettes called Double Happiness that is written in a foreign language and has no government health warning.

Meanwhile, Mr Paul has appealed to the public to come out and help them in their investigations.

"Once the source of the importer and the distributor here in Papua New Guinea is found that will amount to a major punishment under Papua New Guinea laws," he said.

PNG Post-Courier
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