WHAT was initially thought to be a cigarette-smuggling racket has evolved into one of terrorism.
Reports stated that profits from the illegal cigarette trade might be financing terrorism.
The Home Ministry and crime- prevention groups are beginning to see connections between terrorist organisations and the illicit cigarette business.
It’s believed that these businesses were using Malaysia as a base or to generate funds.
How did cigarette-smuggling become a security risk?
Why did we allow syndicates to become so powerful that the security of the country is compromised?
Our security forces and Customs Department have a lot to answer for.
Look at Lahad Datu in Sabah where illegal cigarettes accounted for almost 90 per cent of sales there.
But following increased sea patrols and surveillance to prevent the intrusion of Sulu terrorists, the availability of illicit cigarettes fell sharply.
Our security forces should have known that cigarette-smuggling and terrorism are linked.
After all, it was the Irish Republican Army that pioneered funding its terror campaign in Britain via cigarette-smuggling.
We are not going after just smugglers; we are going after terrorists.
Is the government right in increasing the excise duty on cigarettes and has it achieved its goal?
The government would see higher revenue going into its coffers by raising excise duty.
Should the higher tax reduce cigarette consumption, the authorities would have at least achieved their goal of curbing smoking among Malaysians.
But noble intentions may differ from reality.
Statistics have shown that more Malaysians have resorted to illicit cigarettes. The price of a smuggled pack is RM5 or lower compared with RM15 for a legal one.
Since 2004, the excise duty has increased by more than 200 per cent and each time there is a price hike, the demand for illicit cigarettes increases.
We wonder why the enforcement and preventive measures by the authorities are lax.
Although more than RM5.1 billion in tax is lost through cigarette-smuggling, the Customs Department is unable to battle it.
It was reported that Malaysia is the highest-ranked country in the world for cigarette-smuggling.
If those who are in power are really determined to solve the problem, it would have been solved already.
MUHAMMAD NIZAM KHAMIS
Petaling Jaya, Selangor