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British American Tobacco calls for greater understanding of the illegal tobacco trade

May 29, 2015, 10:50 AM

Today, British American Tobacco is reiterating the need for greater understanding of the illegal tobacco trade, the criminals behind it and the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to fight it. This call to action launches as part of a new campaign, developed by British American Tobacco, to raise awareness of the facts around the illegal tobacco trade to coincide with the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day on Sunday 31 May .

Freddy Messanvi, Legal & External Affairs Director, comments: “The impact of illegal tobacco may not be felt as immediately and directly as other crimes, but the consequences are very real. By some estimates, illegal tobacco costs governments around the world $40-$50 billion each year in unpaid tobacco taxes.In West Africa, it is estimated to cost about $774 million to governments across the region. For example Mali loses around 10bnCFA and Niger around 2bn CFA annually.It is also important to note that the sales of illegal tobacco are reported to fund human trafficking, drug and arms trades as well as terrorist organisations.

“The amount of illegal tobacco is much more significant than is generally realised: an estimated 400-600 billion cigarettes, the equivalent of approximately 10-12% of world consumption globally and in West Africa about 60 billion cigarettes which is about 10% of the global illicit trade. It is a transnational, multi-faceted issue and one that requires a collaborative approach to tackle it, from governments and law enforcement agencies with whom we work in partnership to retailers and customers who can arm themselves with the facts.”

Freddy Messanvi continues: “We are an important part of the solution and we invest over $75 million each year globally to fight the illegal tobacco trade.British American Tobacco has dedicated Anti-Illicit Trade teams across the world and in various countries across West Africa where we operate such as Mali, Niger, Ghana, Cameroon, etc, and we work with government agencies, including police and customs officials, with the aim of bringing criminals who are involved in the illegal tobacco trade to justice.We also support the FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, but this treaty will only be effective if it is consistently applied and enforced by joined up governments.”