The TT Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) has commended St Lucian authorities for taking swift action against illicit cigarettes. In a recent swoop down on products that do not conform to regulations, officials issued a public advisory to stop consumers from purchasing Zon (king size full flavour 20 class filter) cigarettes and 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 it would prosecute anyone found selling or distributing this product.
The brand has also been seen on the market in TT. TTMA president, Franka Costelloe, said via a release on Friday that the action by the St Lucian authorities is a step in the right direction. "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 business that are compliant and committed to free and fair trade.”
She said there was no doubt the Caribbean is being affected by the infiltration of illegal cigarettes and other products, noting there are over 20 brands of illegal cigarettes coming into the region from countries like China, India and Germany with non-compliant packaging and labelling. "This not only deprives governments of revenue collection but poses serious health risks to consumers."
In TT, the Tobacco Control Act also contains requirements for labelling tobacco products. Contravention of the act and its regulations is an offence, and possible consequences include suspension, revocation or limitation of licenses; confiscation and forfeiture of any tobacco product packaged or labelled in a manner that does not conform with the act; and 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 are also included as measures that can be employed against persons who contravene the law.
Recent developments have caused countries worldwide (including TT) to become protective of their respective borders. the TTMA said. Consequently, it is important that people exercise caution in purchasing imported products that do not conform to local standards and regulations, as these products may not be safe for consumption. With reference to local products, Costelloe said that consumers should focus on buying local products they have been approved by local government agencies and deemed safe for consumption. “In this way,” she said, “they will be contributing to keeping local businesses alive.”