British American Tobacco (BAT) has reiterated the need for greater understanding of the illegal tobacco trade, the criminals behind it and the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to fight it.
The call to action is being launched as part of a new campaign developed by British American Tobacco, to raise awareness of the facts around the illegal tobacco trade to coincide with the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day which was marked yesterday.
The campaign portrays this fictional tobacco conglomerate – International Tobacco Smugglers Inc. (ITSI) – profiling the criminal supply chain and how these people are working together on an international scale in sophisticated, highly organised, criminal networks to manufacture, transport and distribute tobacco products illegally.
These people include the person selling cigarettes for pocket money prices in local neighbourhoods and the transport specialist who ships illegal tobacco products from country to country, through to the wealthy ‘king pin’ who is in overall control.
A statement issued by the company in Accra yesterday said the nature and scale of the illegal tobacco trade and, the approaches required to tackle it, vary from country to country.
It however, stated that if all of the different organisations involved in the illegal tobacco trade around the world were combined into one conglomerate, they would become the third largest international tobacco company by revenue,” it said.
Freddy Messanvi, Legal and External Affairs Director at BAT said “The impact of illegal tobacco may not be felt as immediately and directly as other crimes, but the consequences are very real. By some estimates, illegal tobacco costs governments around the world $40-$50 billion each year in unpaid tobacco taxes.”
“In West Africa, it is estimated to cost about $774 million to governments across the region. For example Mali loses around 10 billion CFA and Niger around two billion CFA annually. It is also important to note that the sales of illegal tobacco are reported to fund human trafficking, drug and arms trades as well as terrorist organisations.”
Mr. Messanvi said BAT invests over $75 million each year globally to fight the illegal tobacco trade and also dedicated anti-illicit trade teams across the world and in various countries across West Africa such as Mali, Niger, Ghana, Cameroon, where they operate.
He said BAT collaborates with government agencies, including police and customs officials, to undertake this exercise with the aim of bringing criminals who are involved in the illegal tobacco trade to justice.
According to the statement, the amount of illegal tobacco was more significant than was generally realised: an estimated 400-600 billion cigarettes, the equivalent of approximately 10-12 per cent of world consumption globally and in West Africa about 60 billion cigarettes which is about 10 per cent of the global illicit trade.
“It is a transnational, multi-faceted issue and one that requires a collaborative approach to tackle it, from governments and law enforcement agencies with whom we work in partnership to retailers and customers who can arm themselves with the facts,” it added.
By Times Reporter