Friday

19th Aug 2022

Illicit EU cigarette consumption at record high

  • Europeans smoked more than 65 billion illicit cigarettes in 2011. (Photo: lanier67)

The demand for cheap cigarettes in Europe is fueling the manufacture and consumption of illicit tobacco at unprecedented levels.

A report, released on Wednesday (20 June) by Philip Morris International (PMI), says Europeans smoked more than 65 billion illicit cigarettes in 2011.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Of those, more than 12 billion were consumed in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta. Western and central EU countries consumed a combined total of 36.5 billion.

But in Spain alone, cigarette contraband jumped by 300 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. In Greece, illicit consumption increased five-fold compared to 2008.

"Despite efforts by law enforcement authorities to curb the illegal cigarette market, it remains a significant problem, having grown by more than five billion cigarettes in the EU in the last five years," said PMI’s Artyom Chernis, vice-president of illicit trade strategies and prevention.

The production of cigarettes that are manufactured and then smuggled into another EU country went from nearly zero in 2006 to 15.7 billion last year, or nearly one in every four smoked.

The smuggled cigarettes are considered a recent phenomenon on the European black market. Many are sold throughout EU capitals at a 50 to 70 percent mark down compared to the store-bought equivalent.

The study, conducted by the US-based auditing firm KPMG, says the contraband represents an €11.3 billion annual loss in EU-wide tax revenue.

Last April, authorities in Rome along with the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, dismantled a major criminal international smuggling organisation that branched out to Spain, Germany, Slovenia, Greece and Bosnia.

Police seized 10 tonnes of cigarettes valued at approximately €2 million. One of the men arrested had close ties to the Camorra organised crime group in Naples. He was living as a fugitive in Greece at the time of his arrest.

For its part, the European Commission has partnered up with four of the world's largest tobacco manufacturers in order to tackle the problem.

The commission ranks cigarettes as the number one product detained by EU border customs in 2010. Nearly 34 percent of all illicit articles entering the EU were cigarettes.

Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal

Greece has become embroiled in a wiretapping scandal that led to the resignation of its intelligence chief as well as the Greek prime minister's top aide.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us