One out of every three cigarette packs sold in peninsular Malaysia is either contraband or counterfeit.
In Sabah and Sarawak, the number rises to two out of three packs being illegal.
This is based on a quarterly survey and study conducted by the Customs Department and the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM).
Customs deputy director-general (enforcement) Datuk Mohamed Khalid Yusuf, in revealing the results, added that 36.8 per cent of cigarettes sold in the country were illegal compared to 25.7 per cent last year.
Mohamed Khalid said 29.9 per cent of them were sold in peninsular while the rest were found in Sabah and Sarawak.
He said “In Sabah alone the percentage of illegal cigarettes sold was 62 per cent , while in Sarawak, it was 64 per cent,” he told a press conference at Wisma Kastam here Tuesday.
Mohamed said that several states including Penang were identified as the hotspots for the trade of illegal cigarettes.
The other states he said, were Johor, Kedah Selangor, Federal Territory, Sabah and Sarawak.
“Malaysia is the second highest with such cases after Singapore in the region that has a relatively high sales tax for cigarettes.
“Cigarettes here can cost between RM8 ($3.20) and above, unlike several neighbouring counties where cigarettes are priced at about RM3 or even cheaper,” he added.
Earlier, he told reporters that three containers of D&J brand cigarettes worth RM2.7mil with unpaid duty totalling RM11mil were seized on Sept 1 at the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT).
He said the containers, which had about 1,240 cartons of cigarettes, were brought in from Vietnam by a company operating in Seberang Jaya.
Mohamed added the next day (Sept 4) at about 1am, a team of officers seized 42 boxes of various firecrackers worth RM10,888.80, with unpaid duty totalling RM7,034.82 from a lorry, adding that two men were detained.
He said the lorry was stopped at the Gunung Semanggol Rest and Recreational area (North-South Expressway) in Perak.
Mohamed said the department’s enforcement unit in Penang this year had seized several illegal and unpaid duty items worth more than RM15.79mil with unpaid duty totalling more than RM14.15mil.
The commodities seized include drugs, cigarettes/kretek, alcohol, firecrackers and cars.
He urged the public to call the 1-800-88-8855 toll-free number to report any activities related to smuggling, adding that identity of the informer would not be disclosed.