Taking action on smoking and health
The trade in illicit tobacco is a global phenomenon which contributes to the growth of transnational organised crime and undermines public health objectives.
For an overview see: ASH Scotland briefing on illicit tobacco (updated August 2015) andTobacco Tactics information on tobacco smuggling
22 October 2015
HMRC figures show illicit not risingThe latest HMRC figures have shown that the level of illicit tobacco in the UK in 2014/15 has not risen compared to 2013/14, confounding tobacco industry predictions that strong tobacco control measures will lead to increased smuggling. An estimated 10% of cigarettes consumed in the UK are illicit, the same as 2013/14, while the figure for hand-rolling tobacco stands at 35% (compared to 39% in 2013/14).
24 March 2015UK Government strategy document to tackle illicit tobaccoThis refreshed strategy published by HM Revenue & Customs and UK Border Force addresses changes in the illicit tobacco market and details how they will continue to work together to target, catch and punish those involved in the illicit tobacco trade.
12 February 2015HMRC's impact assessment "We have seen no evidence to suggest the introduction of standardised packaging will have a significant impact on the overall size of the illicit market or prompt a step-change in the activity of organised crime groups." HM Revenue & Customs.
12 June 2014House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Report, formal minutes and oral evidence from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.
10 March 2014'Tobacco industry manipulation of data on and press coverage of the illicit tobacco trade in the UK'Tobacco companies have been arguing that levels of illicit trade in the UK are high and increasing and will rise further if standardised, plain packaging is introduced. This paper published in Tobacco Control examines trends in and accuracy of media reporting of, and industry data on, illicit tobacco in the UK.
Rowell, A., Evans-Reece, K. and Gilmour, A. Tobacco industry manipulation of data on and press coverage of the illicit tobacco trade in the UK. Tobacco Control [online]. 10 March 2014.
12 December 2013'Towards a greater understanding of the illicit tobacco trade in Europe: a review of the PMI funded ‘Project Star’ report' Following a legal agreement with the European Union (EU), Philip Morris International (PMI) commissions a yearly report (‘Project Star’, PS) on the European illicit cigarette trade from KPMG, the global accountancy firm. A review in the journal Tobacco Control concludes that Project Star overestimates illicit cigarette levels in some European countries and suggests PMI's supply chain control is inadequate. Its publication serves the interests of PMI over those of the EU and its member states. PS requires greater transparency, external scrutiny and use of independent data.
06 June 2013EU strategy to step up fight against illicit tobacco tradeThe European Commission has adopted a comprehensive package to step up its fight against illicit tobacco trade, especially cigarette smuggling. The illicit tobacco trade is a global threat depriving Member States and the EU of over €10 billion revenue every year in terms of unpaid taxes and duties. Not only does this hit national revenues hard, illicit trade also fuels the shadow economy since it is almost exclusively the domain of organised criminal groups operating across borders. Furthermore, it also undermines health policy initiatives aimed at discouraging the consumption of tobacco products and legitimate business as most illicit products are not made in line with EU rules on tobacco products. To effectively tackle the problem of illicit tobacco trade, the Commission's strategy sets out a number of coordinated measures at national, EU and international level.
06 June 2013National Audit Office report on tobacco smuggling in the UK“Tobacco smuggling is a significant threat to tax revenues, as well as making illicit tobacco cheaper and more accessible, which has implications for public health. HMRC’s renewed strategy for tackling tobacco smuggling sets out the right measures but, two years on, the Department’s performance on the ground is disappointing. It has not capitalised on extra reinvestment funding available under the 2010 spending review settlement. And it still cannot properly assess how effective its strategy is in tackling tobacco smuggling and the trade in illicit tobacco products in the UK." Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 6 June 2013
25 March 2013APPG inquiry into the illict trade in tobacco productsAccording to a new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health the level of tobacco smuggling and illicit trade in the UK is falling, contrary to claims by the tobacco industry. Public spending on action against the illicit tobacco trade is highly cost effective, saving as much as £10 in tax for every £1 spent. Furthermore, the introduction of standardised plain packaging for cigarettes and other tobacco products would make little or no difference to this trend.
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
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