October 17, 2021 at 06:10 pm
Manila Standard Business
Tobacco smugglers all over the world took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to push cheap and inferior products to consumers suffering from diminished income.
Speaking during a webinar on “Anti-Illicit Trade and Getting to Net Zero: Sustainable Strategies to Stamp out Illegal Trade of Tobacco Product,” Japan Tobacco International senior global director for anti-illegal trade Ian Monteith said smugglers were taking advantage of increased unemployment and reduced disposable income.
“So, COVID has not prevented criminals from profiting. Rather, the pandemic has put pressure on consumers’ purchasing power and pushed them to turn to illegal products,” he said during the virtual seminar.
He said organized criminals were highly adaptable, creative, exploiting public anxiety and enriching themselves not just from tobacco, but other products such as PPE and alcohol. Even counterfeit COVID vaccines were identified in Asia.
Monteith said a JTI report noted that across the 30 European countries including EU, UK, Norway and Switzerland, 34.2 billion cigarettes smoked in 2020 were illegal, representing 7.8 per cent of total cigarette consumption in the EU. Tax loss for said governments is estimated to be 8.5 billion euros annually or nearly P500 billion.