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SITCO encourages strong action against illicit tobacco

SOLOMON Islands Tobacco Company (SITCO) has publicly encouraged strong action against importation and sale of illicit tobacco.

SITCO General Manager, Shusendra Singh responding to Island Sun this week said importation and sales of illicit tobacco is a problem that’s set to grow.

“We are seeing an increasing trend in the number of illicit tobacco products being seen and seized in Solomon Islands.

“We strongly encourage the Ministry of Health to use licence fees generated from manufacturer and importer licensing to strengthen enforcement against illicit tobacco trade,” he said.

The General Manager said illicit trade in tobacco products is a serious problem globally that affects the legitimate industries and robs governments of about 30billion pounds in taxes annually.

“The black market in tobacco involves criminal gangs producing counterfeit cigarettes, cross-border smuggling, and large-scale tax evasion. It’s a problem that’s set to grow,” added Mr Singh.

In the meantime, Mr Singh admits tobacco products do pose harm risks and the only way to avoid these risks is not to use them.

“SITCO therefore fully supports Health policy for tobacco products to be sold only to informed adult consumers, and a key part of tobacco health policy of the Ministry of Health in Solomon Islands has been to educate consumers on health risks and SITCO supports this policy.

“SITCO also supports the principle of requiring manufacturers and importers of tobacco products to be licensed. This ensures only legitimate and responsible operators are in the market,” he said.

Mr Singh said SITCO is of the view that a minimum 3-year licence term will not only provide commercial certainty, but also significant revenue for the Health Ministry to use for awareness and enforcement purposes.

He adds that SITCO supports evidence-based, balanced legislation which is developed in consultation with affected stakeholders, including the tobacco industry. The General Manager said that tobacco control policies can have a significant impact on the way SITCO manufactures, distributes and sells its products.

“We believe this makes us a legitimate stakeholder in the legislative process,” he said.