Lithuania - must control illicit tobacco in order for tobacco control to work..

April 26, 2010 - An illegal cigarette factory in Vilnius, capable of producing at least 1000 cigarettes a minute, has been raided and closed down in an operation mounted by Lithuanian Customs supported by OLAF. Six people were arrested at the factory, which was producing 3 brands of cigarettes for the illegal markets in the European Union (EU). As well as cigarette-making and packing machines, Lithuanian Customs seized large quantities of tobacco, paper and other materials used in the production of cigarettes.

Cigarette smuggling causes losses of EUR 10 billion annually to the European Union (EU). Under the Counter & Over the Border How Government Inflames The Illicit Cigarette Trade, Dr Patrick Basham, Democracy Institute, Social Risk Series Paper, 2/23/2010.

Mr Nicholas Ilett, acting Director General of European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), said that the number of illegal factories producing counterfeit cigarettes in the EU has risen quite dramatically over the last five years.

"I would like to congratulate the Director General of Lithuanian Customs, Mr Antanas Šipavičius, and his staff for this great result. Lithuanian Customs and OLAF have cooperated closely in this investigation and OLAF investigators were present when the factory was raided. This type of cooperation is essential if the criminal gangs responsible for defrauding European taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of euro are to be brought to justice. We are looking forward to continuing to work closely with the Lithuanian authorities".

This operation is one of a number of actions OLAF is currently involved in to target the illicit production of cigarettes in the EU. Since the first illegal factory was discovered in 2003, over 50 illicit manufacturing facilities have been closed by EU law enforcement agencies.

In order to have an effective tobacco control program the availability of illegal (illicit, contraband, black market, smuggling) must be controlled. Philip Morris International reported a 72 percent volume decrease in their tobacco products in Romania (for 1st quarter 2010) where tax increases have made it difficult for the average consumer to afford cigarette. You got to suspect some smokers are finding cheaper illegal cigarettes to satisfy their addiction. We are all counting on World Health Organization (WHO) to provide solution to control the booming worldwide cigarette smuggling (illicit, illegal, contraband) problem. (WHO - session on global pact on cigarette smuggling stalled..

Lithuania - September 1, 2009 - excise duty on cigarettes increased..

Reference: Illegal Cigarette Factory Raided, European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), 4/22/2010.