1 Mar 2013

Rise in tobacco interceptions at border

10:21 pm on 1 March 2013

The Customs Service says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people attempting to bring in more than their allotted share of tobacco.

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson says mail interceptions in 2012 were up 600% on the previous year, while instances at airports were up 9%.

Mr Williamson said on Friday the Government knew it was going to be a consequence of raising the excise tax, but the increase was larger than expected.

Travellers are allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, and Mr Williamson said it is not worth trying to bring in more.

"If they're caught they not only end up paying the GST, they can actually end up having the products confiscated and, more importantly, they can actually be prosecuted."

Maurice Williamson said interceptions ranged from one or two cartons for personal use to an operation where the excise tax totalled $84,000.

Phil Chitty, acting deputy comptroller of Customs operations, said the ways people were getting extra tobacco in was varied. In some cases, people have been referred to the immigration service and refused entry to New Zealand.