The Customs Department is preparing to lower duty on the import of alcoholic beverages and cigars by 50% for five years in line with the government’s economic stimulus and investment promotion package.

Patchara Anuntasilpa, director-general of the department, said the cuts are in accordance with the September 14th cabinet resolution involving plans to revive the post-Covid-19 economy.

Mr Patchara said that about 30% of products are likely to be covered by the planned cuts and ministerial regulations will be announced after the changes are made. He said the department is also preparing to revise custom procedures for personal items for arriving and departing passengers.

Meanwhile, Roengrudee Patanavanicha, a researcher on tobacco control, said the Customs Department’s move caught her off guard because the new excise tax structure for cigarettes is expected to take effect next month.  Under the new system, a flat tax rate of 40% will be applied to cigarettes, regardless of the retail price.

She said the new tax could help reduce smoking among teenagers and generate revenue for the state.  She dismissed claims that maintaining high cigarette prices will result in an increase in the smuggling of contraband cigarettes.

“It is lax law enforcement, an inefficient tax system and intervention from the tobacco industry that contribute to the problem,” she said.