PORT OF SPAIN – The Trinidad & Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) warned that Caribbean countries are being affected by the infiltration of illegal cigarettes and other products and praised St Lucia for clamping down on the illegal trade.
“It is in the consumers’ interest to purchase regulated products deemed safe by the appropriate regulators. Consumers must stop supporting products entering any country illegally, jeopardising our safety and ultimately eroding local businesses that are compliant and committed to free and fair trade,” said TTMA president, Franka Costelloe.
“There is no doubt that the Caribbean region is being affected by the infiltration of illegal cigarettes and other products. In fact, there are over 20 brands of illegal cigarettes coming into our shores from countries like China, India and Germany with non-compliant packaging and labelling and this not only deprives Governments of revenue collection but poses serious health risks to consumers,” she added.
In a statement, the TTMA said St Lucian officials had taken “swift action” against the sale of Zon cigarettes and issued a public advisory to stop consumers from purchasing them. Vendors were asked to cease sale and distribution and to submit any stocks in their possession for disposal.
“The Bureau of Standards also stated that they would prosecute anyone found selling or distributing this product,” the TTMA said.
Costelloe, responding to comments that the brand in question has also been seen on the market here in Trinidad and Tobago, said “the action by the St Lucian authorities is a step in the right direction”.
The TTMA said that locally, the Tobacco Control Act also contains requirements for the labelling of tobacco products.
It said contravention of the Act and its Regulations is an offence, and possible consequences include suspension, revocation or limitation of licenses, as well as confiscation and forfeiture of any tobacco product packaged or labelled in a manner that does not conform with this Act.
The legislation also provides for the confiscation and forfeiture of all tobacco products for which all applicable taxes and duties have not been paid or that otherwise have not legally entered the jurisdiction.
Fines, penalties and imprisonment can also be used as punishment.
The TTMA said that recent developments have caused countries worldwide, including Trinidad and Tobago, to become protective of their respective borders.