May 20, 2008, 6:10 AM
The nature and scale of the illegal tobacco trade and, the approaches required to tackle it, vary from country to country. However, if all of the different organisations involved in the illegal tobacco trade around the world were combined into one conglomerate, they would become the third largest international tobacco company by revenue.
According to Freddy Messanvi, BAT’s Legal & External Affairs Director,: “The impact of illegal tobacco may not be felt as immediately and directly as other crimes, but the consequences are just as serious.In 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, which means taxes paid could have been higher. 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.”
The nature of the illegal tobacco trade varies from country to country but the causes are similar. These include regulation that is not balanced, over regulation, large excise increases causing price differences between countries and ineffective law enforcement measures.
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 that 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.”