A campaign launched this week in Yorkshire in the UK aims to tackle trade in illicit tobacco in the area. A recent survey in the region showed that 31% of smokers have tried illicit tobacco, illicit tobacco makes up 9% of the tobacco market, and that 16% of smokers feel comfortable with the sale of illicit tobacco.
Illicit tobacco harms our communities. It endangers children, as illegal sellers will not abide by the same strict set of codes as responsible retailers who respect that smoking is a free choice to be made only by responsible adults. It fuels criminal activity in neighbourhoods, as the proceeds of illegal tobacco go into the pockets of gangs and cartels. It undermines the government’s ability to fund community services, by hollowing out the tax take from legitimate tobacco products.
Speaking about the impact of illicit tobacco on communities, ESTA Secretary General Peter van der Mark said: “Community campaigns are very important for highlighting the problem of illicit trade in tobacco. However, ultimately it is the government that has to take the lead by above all implementing responsible tax policies which protect our communities from illegal trade. Irresponsible tax policies, such as eliminating the tax differential between cigarettes and fine-cut tobacco, drive consumers to the illegal market, undermining government revenues. Worse still, as we can see in Yorkshire, the sale of illicit tobacco can in fact become normalised, with many people not seeing it as genuine criminal activity. This is an incredibly dangerous perception, and the UK government must act responsibly to counter it.”