If you are a cigarette smoker planning a trip to Sri Lanka anytime soon, you might want to read this post before you board the flight.
Confusion & Contradiction
While the in-flight duty free magazines on many major airlines operating into Colombo state that each visitor is allowed to bring in 200 sticks of cigarettes into SriLanka, the Schedule B of the Customs Ordinance published on the Sri Lanka Customs website state that “Beedies and beedy tobacco except such as are imported under the authority of a licence issued by the Principal Collector of Customs and only through such ports and subject to such conditions as he may specify by notification published in the Gazette”. Then again, the Duty free allowances listed on Bandaranaike International Airport’s website also doesn’t list cigarettes and tobacco. Although the general information available on the Internet about regulations in bringing cigarettes into Sri Lanka contradict with each other – buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with foreign cigarettes in Sri Lanka are serious offences.
Sri Lanka’s only tobacco manufacturer and exporter, the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC), also a subsidiary of the British American Tobacco PLC is the second largest trader on the Colombo Stock Exchange. They monopolize the production of cigarettes in Sri Lanka, the cigarette brands they market include Dunhill, Lucky Strike, Bristol, John Player Gold Leaf, Pall Mall and Three Roses. Health-warning labels in English, Sinhala and Tamil are required to appear on all cigarette packages sold in Sri Lanka.
Despite the hustle and bustle in the noisy capital, Sri Lankan Police officers have their eyes firmly fixed on tourists smoking in the public. When the officers spot a foreigner or a local smoking a particular brand of cigarette locally not sold in the country, they will approach and request to inspect the cigarette. If your cigarette pack doesn’t carry a health risk warning label in English, Sinhala and Tamil, they will question you on how you got it or brought it into Sri Lanka. If you purchased it from another country and brought it into Sri Lanka, it’s considered contraband or smuggled cigarettes, you will be brought to the police station where the case will be processed for prosecution.
The police will follow the chain of custody, they will take a statement from you and lock you up in a cell until the courts are open for your remand hearing, if the incident happened during night, you will stay in the cell until morning, if during the night before the weekend or a public holiday, you will be in custody until the court opens during a working day. While you are at the police station, the officer who found the cigarettes from you will report the same to the Ceylon Tobacco Company, and upon producing the pack of foreign cigarettes they discovered from you, they are rewarded Rs.10,000 for each pack, and Rs.1000 for each cigarette stick inside the pack.
In January 2013, a Maldivian student was arrested outside a shopping mall in Colombo for smoking a cigarette that she had illegally brought into Sri Lanka. She was produced in the court for a remand hearing and was charged a fine of Rs.5, 000. She had 12 cigarette sticks in her possession at the time Police searched her.
Source: Daily Mirror
Disclaimer: Smoking is injurious to health. Smokers are at risk of heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.