Eliminating global illicit cigarette trade would save lives and increase tax revenue..

June 29, 2009 - Cigarettes are the world's most widely smuggled legal consumer product. A growing global trade in black market cigarettes is killing tens of thousands of people a year, causing massive health problems and costing governments billions of pounds, a hard-hitting report warns today.

New Report from the Framework Convention Alliance: How Eliminating the Global Illicit Cigarette Trade would Increase Tax Revenue and Save Lives." The most authoritative report yet produced on the extent of the global illicit trade in cigarettes has been published, in time to inform discussions on the Illicit Trade Protocol at INB-3.

The report comes as representatives of governments gather in Geneva to negotiate the first worldwide protocol on illicit trade in tobacco products. FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) Conference of the Parties, Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on a Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, Geneva, Switzerland, June 28th - July 5th, 2009.

About 657 billion cigarettes a year are sold illicitly - representing an enormous missed tax opportunity for governments, as well as a missed opportunity to prevent many people from starting to smoke and encourage others to quit.

"The burden of illicit (illegal, contraband, counterfeiting) trade falls mainly on lower-income countries", the study found. While the black market accounts for 11.6% of all cigarettes consumed worldwide, its market share is 9.8% in well-off countries but 16.8% on average in poorer ones. In Georgia 50% of all cigarettes sold are contraband, while 40% of those in Uzbekistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Bolivia share that source. The figure stands at more than 20% in 15 other, mainly poor, countries. Buyers are tempted by low prices, which prompt them to buy more and smoke more often, leading to illness, says the study.

Developed countries such as Canada are also having major problems with illicit cigarettes. Last year (2008), one-third of all cigarettes in Canada were sold illegally. In the Province of Ontario, it skyrocketed to almost half -- 48%. The year before, the figure was roughly 22% across Canada, with just over 30% in this province.

Related news brief: All EU states sign up against illicit tobacco trade..; Many others news briefs - do a random search.

References: Developing world faces black market cigarette plague Governments plan fightback against smugglers who benefit from corruption and lax policing, Denis Campbell, health correspondent, guardian.co.uk The Observer, 6/28/2009; Tobacco Atlas - Illegal Cigarettes; Big stakes in tobacco, BusinessMirror.com, 6/30/2009.