The illicit tobacco trade is a global issue with a major impact on the EU, accounting for an estimated 10.4% of the cigarette market worldwide. In addition to being a major funding source for organised crime, the cost on European tax revenues is substantial, estimated to be €11.3 billion a year. Traditionally the illicit tobacco trade has been dominated by counterfeiting, but “illicit whites” are an emerging trend. These cigarettes may be legally produced but are then smuggled and traded illegally. Tackling this problem requires innovative solutions that address a problem largely originating beyond EU borders.
The European Commission is addressing the issue as part of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), while also ratifying the World Health Organisation’s Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (FCTC). But there is no single solution and a response requires debate and knowledge sharing.