|The Hoan Kiem People's Committee plans to crack down on illegal cigarette sales around Hoan Kiem Lake, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the capital city.— Photo laodong
HA NOI (VNS) — The Hoan Kiem People's Committee plans to crack down on illegal cigarette sales around Hoan Kiem Lake, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the capital city.
A recent survey by the city's Steering Committee 389, which combats smuggling and illegal trading, revealed that there were 22 illegal vendors around the lake: eight from the district and the rest from elsewhere in Ha Noi.
"The Hoan Kiem District People's Committee has been working with other districts to eliminate the illegal sale of cigarettes around the lake. Local patrols have been dispatched to keep an eye on those individuals," said Lam Quoc Hung, head of the committee.
Sellers often divided their stock into small stashes and hid them until they found buyers, making it hard for the authorities to deal with the situation.
"We have to be careful to protect our stock, especially the valuable ones like imported cigars," said a cigarette vendor sitting by the lake who preferred to remain anonymous. "Mess up one time and you will lose most of your capital."
As cigarette vendors were no longer allowed to set up shop on the pavement around the lake, she simply stood around waiting for buyers.
Asked if she was worried about the crackdown by the city, she replied: "Our price is competitive compared to the licensed stores. Buyers will come to us and we have always figured out a way."
One way that she and other vendors evade the law is by offering delivery services. Regulars don't come to the lake; rather, they place orders by phone and have cigarettes delivered to their homes.
"Cigarette packs are small and easy to move, so we have to inspect cigarette shops often. Immediate fines are required to keep those shops in check," said Nguyen Trong Binh, deputy head of Market Watch Division 1.
The cigarettes are generally foreign brands such as Hero, Esse, Zest, Parliament and Garam.
About one billion packs of cigarettes are imported illegally into Viet Nam per year, causing the state to lose US$210–240 million annually, according to the Viet Nam Tobacco Association.
The association proposed several ways to stop cigarette smuggling, including tightening controls over cigarette imports at border crossings, stepping up co-operation among local authorities and cracking down on cigarette vendors. — VNS