13 January 2009

Buy fake cigarettes... You Are Actually Sucking In Faeces

To all my dear friends who always buy contraband cigarettes (from dealers or Gey***g) just to save a few dollars, please STOP after reading this, as it is really GROSS!!!
If you have smoked contraband cigarettes, chances are you have sucked in a whole lot of disgusting stuff, including human faeces.

Such cheap smokes, bought off peddlers, have been found to contain 'extra ingredients' which also include dead flies and insect eggs.

One in five contraband cigarettes is likely to be a fake, made with various materials other than tobacco, said trade investigators with the International Chamber of Commerce's Counterfeit Intelligence Bureau (CIB).

Much of it can be harmful.

The CIB report found that 'fake smokes can contain five times the level of cadmium, six times as much lead, 160 per cent more tar and 133 per cent more carbon monoxide'.

The report also found sand, wood and mould in fake cigarettes.

The more contraband cigarettes are sold in Singapore, the higher the chances of smokers inhaling dangerous materials.

Such cigarettes, said the CIB, were even more dangerous than the legal cancer-causing kind.

Street pedlars have been selling such contraband cigarettes in places such as Yew Tee and Geylang.

Why resort to mixing fake cigarettes with the contraband ones? To hedge against a loss in revenue from stepped-up raids by the authorities.

Said Mr Cecil Leong, international trade consultant for Customs consulting firm Bryan Cave International: 'Since a few years ago, it has been estimated that one out of five contraband cigarettes smoked here is a fake.'

Mr Leong, 38, advises foreign governments on issues like taxation. The effects of cigarette smuggling is one of his key areas.

He noted that contraband cigarettes could have captured half the market if not for tough enforcement by Singapore authorities.

About a fifth of the sticks sold here are estimated to be smuggled.

In Singapore, where between 1.8 and 2 billion sticks are sold annually, a 20 per cent loss in revenue to cigarette smugglers is substantial, said Mr Tony Toh, corporate affairs manager for Japan Tobacco International (Singapore).

Said Mr Toh: 'Five years ago, counterfeit cigarettes were the majority in the local black market.

'Today, fake cigarettes have been overtaken by those whose duties are unpaid. Rather than paying $5 for a fake, consumers prefer to pay the same amount for smuggled genuine, duty-unpaid cigarettes.

'Unfortunately, you don't always know what you're paying for. I have come across dried grass in fake cigarettes. They simply have no quality control.'

While they may look the same, fake smokes carry bigger health risks.

In 2007, the International Chamber of Commerce's Counterfeit Intelligence Bureau (CIB) reported that counterfeit smokes were more harmful than ordinary, legal cigarettes.

The good news is that Singapore Customs has not come across any illegal cigarettes with the SDPC (Singapore Duty-Paid Cigarette) marking.

Nonetheless, a spokesman said the Customs will monitor 'the situation closely and review enforcement tactics accordingly should the situation change'.

In the last four months, more than 2,500 buyers (of contraband cigarettes) have been booked and fined at least $500 a packet, said the spokesman.

To further paralyse counterfeit operations, cigarette companies like Philip Morris Singapore have a dedicated Brand Integrity Group.

Said its spokesman Ong Soo Chuan: 'The group develops specific strategies and actions against the production, transportation and distribution of smuggled and counterfeit products.'

Philip Morris frequently shares intelligence and its insights on the illicit trade situation with the authorities, added Mr Ong.

Singapore remains an attractive market for smugglers.

Added Mr Toh: 'Singapore is a small market but the high tax and high retail price of cigarettes allow syndicates to make a larger margin, particularly if they sell fakes.'

A 20-stick packet of contraband cigarettes costs about $5, while a premium packet sold by licensed retailers costs $11.60.

A common practice used to gauge the spread of contraband cigarettes involves 'empty pack' or 'litter' surveys, where empty cigarette packs are collected from public trash bins.

Said Mr Toh: 'From the samples gathered, tobacco companies are able to determine the numbers of fake, non-local genuine, and local genuine empty cigarette packs.'

Alternatively, Mr Leong said: 'You could tell them apart by doing a tobacco leaf analysis.'

To the untrained eye, it is difficult to spot a fake.

The New Paper on Sunday conducted a test with a pack of fake cigarettes and found that even those who work for the tobacco industry could not tell the difference.

They could not differentiate the fake from the original boxes of cigarettes we presented to them.

But the issue was quickly resolved when a UV scanner was used to pick out 'covert markers' on the genuine pack.

Added Mr Leong: 'Only if you're a long-time smoker (of a certain brand of cigarettes) would you be able to taste the difference.'

Visual signs on a fake packet of cigarettes may include loosely-packed tobacco, poor packaging and dull printing.

The best indication of a fake? Just like fake branded handbags, if the cigarettes are too cheap, they are likely to be fakes.

(Original story from asiaone)

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