• Customs hauls of illegal tobacco more than doubled between July 1 and April 30 this year. (AAP)
Customs officials have netted staggering numbers of cigarettes and loose-leaf tobacco in the past 10 months.
Source:
AAP
14 Jul - 6:00 PM 

More than 260 million cigarettes and a whopping 204 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco have been seized at Australia's borders in just 10 months.

Customs officials snagged the bulk of the illicit tobacco in sea cargo consignments, with figures bouncing back to relatively normal levels after an unusually lean year in 2015-16.

Hauls from attempts to mail illegal tobacco into Australia more than doubled between July 1 and April 30, compared to the previous year, while detections from air cargo exploded at an even more rapid rate.

The tobacco seized from air cargo alone across the 10 months was worth about $100 million.

Officials attributed the seizure figures in part to the establishment of a tobacco strike force and intelligence team.

Customs also netted roughly 40 tonnes of molasses tobacco, or shisha, over the 10 months, according to figures released to senators this week.

The government is soon raising taxes on roll-your-own tobacco and other products such as cigars to bring them in line with manufactured cigarettes.

The measure is expected to rake in $360 million over four years, including an extra $35 million in GST revenues.

It will be achieved by downsizing assumptions on a cigarette's tobacco content from 0.8 to 0.7 grams, impacting excise and customs duty rates the government says have until now favoured rollies.

Anti-smoking advocates have praised the tax increase, which they say will lift the price of 50 gram bags of tobacco by up to $8 over the next four years.

The increases, starting in September, will coincide with 12.5 per cent tobacco tax hikes.

Despite the tax hikes on rollies, customs officials do not believe it will lead to a spike in illegal imports.

They anticipate it may trigger a slight shift from one tobacco product to another, but don't expect it will make much difference to the overall size of the illicit market.