Are you declaring your molasses tobacco imports?

Importing molasses tobacco for commercial or personal use, without obtaining a permit from the Australian Border Force (ABF) and paying the relevant duty and GST is a criminal offence.

Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, Jason Wood said importers need to be aware of the requirement to obtain a permit and to declare their importations of molasses tobacco.

“The ABF is aware of some importers incorrectly declaring their molasses tobacco imports, with descriptions such as ‘herbal tobacco’ or ‘food molasses’,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“The ABF has identified cases where importers have deliberately mislabelled cargo as something else entirely such as ‘skincare’, ‘cleaning goods’ or ‘food products’.

Molasses tobacco, commonly smoked through water pipes known as ‘shisha’, contains tobacco together with ingredients such as honey, glycerin and chemicals to give it flavour. Smokers commonly place the molasses tobacco in a pipe, heat it with charcoal and inhale the smoke through a mouthpiece.  

“Importers must obtain a permit to import molasses tobacco before it arrives in Australia, accurately declare their goods and pay all the relevant duty and GST when their shipment arrives at the border,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“ABF officers will advise you or your customs broker how much duty and GST you must pay when your shipment arrives in Australia. The amount of duty and GST you pay depends on the amount of molasses tobacco you are bringing in.”

Molasses tobacco is regulated on import in the same way as other general tobacco products. The amount of customs duty payable on molasses tobacco products is calculated on a per-kilogram basis and is applied to the total weight of the tobacco product, including any moisture and flavour added to the tobacco leaf during manufacturing or processing. The current duty rate for molasses tobacco is $1,309.85 per kilogram. 

The ABF is on alert for illicit molasses tobacco importations and will seize the tobacco where there is a reasonable suspicion taxes or duty have not been paid.

“ABF officers and Home Affairs intelligence analysts use a variety of sophisticated techniques to find and test for concealments of illicit molasses tobacco whether it is through deliberate mislabelling or hiding as part of other items,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“Be warned, if you are caught trying to conceal or misdeclare your molasses tobacco imports you could be charged for illicit tobacco offences.”

Penalties for tobacco smuggling include up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

In 2018-19, the ABF seized 312 tonnes of undeclared leaf tobacco that includes undeclared molasses tobacco.

Information on importing tobacco can be found at on the ABF website. Information on the duty rates that apply to tobacco products is also on the ABF website.

Anyone with information on the illegal importation of illicit tobacco is encouraged to contact Border Watch at This can be done anonymously.

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