Global cigarette maker charges govts on combating illegal tobacco trade

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Global cigarette producer, Japan Tobacco International (JTI), has urged governments to implement reasonable policies to help law enforcement agencies combat illegal in tobacco.

JTI Anti-illicit Trade Operations Director, Ian Monteith, made the appeal during a panel discussion at the online Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum 2021 with theme “Getting to Net -zero: Sustainable Strategies to Stamp out Illegal Trade of Tobacco Products.”

He said government at all levels should take a more holistic approach when tackling the illegal trade.

“Law enforcement is effective only when reasonable and balanced policies are in place.

“As governments seek to revitalise the economy, they should consider the possible pitfall of sharp tax hikes or additional taxation designed to change behaviors around lifestyle choices and the environment that drive down affordability.

“Some consumers believe illegal tobacco is a victimless crime. We need to inform them of the impact of buying illicit from criminal groups.

“Many of these groups also people and weapons, with far-reaching consequences for the society,” he said.

The director noted that illegal trade impacted everyone including farmers, retailers, suppliers and consumers.

He said it important to educate consumers that with every illegal pack of tobacco bought they are indirectly supporting criminal groups.

“Government agencies and law enforcement agencies are needed at both international and national level, along with a desire to increase the fines and punishments for those caught producing, distributing, and selling illegal tobacco products.

“Governments also need to step up enforcement at borders, to improve intelligence sharing between the tobacco industry and law enforcement agencies,” Monteith said.

Mr Lawrence Hutter, Senior Adviser at Alvarez and Marsal Corporate Solutions, said findings have shown that affordability encourages the consumption of illegal tobacco products.

He said that high taxes on tobacco would help reduce its affordability.

“We analysed data from 71 countries in 15 years representing 82 per cent of global cigarette volume and 92 per cent of global cigarette retail values.

“The analysis reveal that as cigarettes become 10 per cent more expensive relative to incomes, illegal trade rose by seven per cent,” Hutter said.