Also, the number of contraband seized from checkpoints only forms a small part of the bigger picture.
The actual number of contraband cigarettes consumed in Singapore in 2014, according to the Asia-16 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2014 Report, prepared jointly by the International Tax and Investment Centre and Oxford Economics, could be as high as 500 million.
“If all flavour cigarettes including menthol ones are banned, it is likely to drive demand for black market products at levels never seen before in Singapore,” said PMI.
Even if you’re a hardcore smoker who, say, smokes two packets of cigarettes on average every day, that would take someone about 34 thousand years to finish.
And criminals are thinking up creative ways to smuggle the contraband cigarettes in, from modifying compartments in vehicles, such as loose floor boards, fuel tanks and rooftop compartments, to using luxury cars to move the goods over. Compared to its neighbours, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore’s high cigarette prices, at about $11 to $13 per pack, attracts an inflow of illicit cigarettes as smugglers can make a profit here by selling them at half the price or less.
In 2014, 15 per cent of the packs collected were contraband cigarettes while in 2013, 20 per cent of the cigarettes collected were found to be contraband.
Smoke and numbers But the situation is more complex than the numbers on a spreadsheet.
It may also fuel other criminal activities such as smuggling of other products and even human trafficking.