Tobacco trafficking

When consumers light up smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes, keen to save money, they may be unwittingly helping to fund international organised crime and terrorists.

This is just one serious problem associated with the trade in illicit tobacco – a trade which is already a global problem and set to grow.

We fully support regulators, governments and international organisations such as the World Customs Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, World Health Organisation and European Union in seeking to eliminate all forms of illicit tobacco trade.  We would like to see all our markets free of it.

The black market is driven by ever higher tobacco taxes, particularly when taxes and therefore prices in neighbouring countries are much lower. Weak criminal penalties, poor border controls, low arrest rates and corruption in some parts of the world add to the problem.

We see it as vitally important that governments establish workable tax regimes and economic policies that do not create conditions that encourage illicit trade, with strong border controls and effective laws to combat it.

Crime and reward

Illicit trade is not just the work of small operators.  Organised crime is increasingly dominant. The rewards can be high. Just one shipping container full of trafficked cigarettes could earn a criminal gang more than US$1 million.

Interpol, the international police organisation, says gangs that traffic drugs, arms and people are also behind the illicit cigarette and alcohol trade.  The US Department of Justice says some also have ties to terrorist organisations.

How we tackle illicit trade

Tackling illicit trade requires co-operation and understanding between legitimate tobacco companies, governments and organisations such as the World Customs Organisation, World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation.

For our part, we specifically require our companies to ensure that their business practices are directed at supporting only the legitimate trade in their products, and our companies are committed to doing everything they reasonably can to minimise the risk of their products being diverted into illicit trade channels.