In a note posted on its website today, British American Tobacco says that it is reiterating the need for greater understanding of the illegal tobacco trade and the criminals behind it, and the need for greater co-operation and collaboration in fighting this trade.
‘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 (WNTD) on Sunday 31 May,’ the note said. [The illegal tobacco trade is the WNTD’s focus this year.]
‘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 volume.’
Commenting on the campaign, which uses a fictional tobacco conglomerate, International Tobacco Smugglers Inc, Jerome Abelman, director of legal and external affairs at BAT, said the impact of the illegal tobacco trade might not be felt as immediately and directly as were the impacts of other crimes, but the consequences were very real. “By some estimates, illegal tobacco costs governments around the world $40-$50 billion each year in unpaid tobacco taxes – the equivalent to approximately one $110 million bank robbery every day of the year – and sales of illegal tobacco are reported to fund human trafficking, drug and arms trades as well as terrorist organisations,” he said.
“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 percent of world consumption. 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.”
BAT said that the nature of the illegal tobacco trade varied from country to country but the causes were similar. These included large excise increases that caused price differences between countries, and ineffective law enforcement measures.
“We are an important part of the solution and we invest over $75 million each year to fight the illegal tobacco trade,” said Abelman. “British American Tobacco has dedicated Anti-Illicit Trade teams across the globe 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 [the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control] 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.”