Seized items included chewing tobacco and snuff
Illegal tobacco stash seized in Bahrain
Manama, June 19, 2014
Thousands of dinars worth of tobacco has been seized and destroyed as part of a major crackdown on banned products in Bahrain.
Teams from the Health and Interior ministries raided a warehouse in Manama where they seized more than 500kg of different kinds of chewing tobacco, snuff and other items that had been smuggled into Bahrain from India and other South Asian countries, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
An Asian man was arrested by the teams for selling the illegal tobacco products and has been referred to the Public Prosecution.
"For months now we have been tracking the whereabouts of this group, that smuggles banned tobacco substances into Bahrain and stores them somewhere in Manama," said Health Ministry anti-smoking committee vice-president Mariam Janahi.
"Based on the information we collected, we knew this group had a minivan that they used to distribute products to different cold stores across the country.
"For over eight hours we waited with police teams until an Asian man placed all the products in the vehicle - and he was caught red-handed."
Janahi said that the team had received a tip-off from customs officials that a large consignment of potential harmful substances had entered the country, so started inspecting different areas until they zeroed-in on the warehouse in question on Sunday.
"The raids were carried out to enforce and implement the public health law, which prohibits the possession and sale of certain kinds of tobacco products," she said.
"It is illegal to sell or possess tobacco products other than cigarettes or sheesha."
The products seized in the raid included paan - a psychoactive preparation of betel leaf and tobacco, and gutka - a mild stimulant made from tobacco and crushed betel nuts.
Both products are linked to mouth cancer and are difficult for authorities to detect because manufacturers pack them in sachets similar to tea bags.
Janahi said that the tobacco products were smuggled from Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway, adding that their team of inspectors would be visiting cold stores to ensure the items are not being sold.
"This is a problem for us because these items can easily enter Bahrain, but now because of intensified inspections the cold store owners are selling them secretly and only to regular customers," she said.
"We will take strict action against those cold stores or other establishments selling these products in Bahrain and work together closely with the customs and police."
In the past, violators have been referred to the Public Prosecution - which has the power to issue a warning, fines ranging from BD1,000 ($2,637) to BD3,000 or close down the business for good, Janahi said.
The ministry yesterday urged the public to report violations on its anti-smoking hotline 66399755, which is operational every day from 6am until midnight.
Last year, 116 complaints were received via the hotline against hotels, restaurants and shops for breaching Bahrain's anti-smoking law. - TradeArabia News Service