European Anti-Fraud Office

Cigarette smuggling: Focused enforcement and new tools

Cigarette smuggling: Focused enforcement and new tools

12/05/2017

Important milestones were reached by the EU in the fight against the illicit tobacco trade, a report released by the European Commission on 12 May 2017 shows.

The adoption of the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive and last year's EU adhesion to the World Health Organisation Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products ("FCTC Protocol") have significantly changed the regulatory landscape, and new tools, such as tracking and tracing in the EU and at international level, will soon be available.

Focused enforcement has also led to more seizures of illicit tobacco: across the EU, seizures  rose from 3.1 billion cigarettes in 2013 to 3.8 billion in 2015. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) alone has contributed to a record seizure of more than 1 billion cigarettes over the last two years, more than 90% of which were "cheap whites" (i.e. cigarettes manufactured by brands not associated with any of the major international tobacco producers).

Cigarette smuggling is a major concern for the EU, posing great risks to both consumers and businesses and causing losses of more than EUR 10 billion to public revenues annually. It is also an important source of revenue for international organised crime and, in some instances, has been linked to the financing of terrorism.

The report recommends maintaining the key strands proposed in the 2013 strategy to step up the fight against the illicit tobacco trade, such as reducing the incentives underpinning smuggling from third countries, securing the supply chain, and strengthening cooperation between enforcement agencies, but also to reflect on whether additional measures are called for.