Tobacco body discusses penalties for illicit trade

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FILE PHOTO: Counterfeit cigarettes seized by police during a search of a grocery in 2021. PHOTO COURTESY TTPS –

The first meeting of the Anti-Illicit Trade Taskforce’s working group on tobacco discussed several priority matters key to combating the illicit trade in the item locally.

In a release, the working group said these included the estimation and identification of the trade locally, current high levels of taxation and key recommendations to address the issue, including reviewing and improving the enforcement of existing legislation; and implementing and increasing more robust penalties and fines for actors that don’t comply with the prohibitions under the Tobacco Control Act and Tobacco Control Regulations.

Other recommendations included intensification of border control and security; training and education; policy reform; strengthening inter-agency and institutional collaboration; increasing manpower resources; implementation of a track-and-trace system; public awareness initiatives; and ensuring proper enforcement and protection of high-risk goods through the Special Economic Zone.

The release said the committee would meet again shortly to delve deeper into the recommendations and action plan to reduce illicit trade in tobacco products.

The meeting on Tuesday was chaired by the TT Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) and Crime Stoppers Trinidad.

TTMA representative Ilanka Manrique underscored the efforts of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of National Security on the establishment of the group and the Association’s commitment to working with all participants to devise solutions to tackle illicit trade in tobacco.

Darrin Carmichael of Crime Stoppers Trinidad highlighted that the government loses significant revenue due to the prevalence of illicit trade in consumer products and the deliberations of the committee would aid in the formulation of a plan of action on mitigating against incidences of the act.

Other agencies present included the Customs and Excise Division, Financial Intelligence Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries and representatives from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

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