Cigarette Smuggling

News, information and statistics about the illicit tobacco trade. Cigarette smuggling on the black market and other facts collected from tobacco companies, security agencies and other public information sources.

Tobacco maker Philip Morris reported that 64.2 billion contraband cigarettes were smoked in the European Union in 2010, up 3.1 billion cigarettes from 2009.

The cigarettes were either legitimate cigarettes that were smuggled to avoid taxes on the packs or counterfeit cigarettes.

Up to 10 percent of all cigarettes smoked in the EU fall under the category of contraband cigarettes.

Source: Philip Morris, “Philip Morris International: Illicit Cigarettes In EU Reach Record Levels In 2010: KPMG Study Shows Annual Consumption Up By 5.1% To An Estimated 64 Billion Units,” MarketWatch, Press Release, June 30, 2011.

Cigarette maker Philip Morris reported that Los Angeles, New York and Miami are the top markets where counterfeit cigarettes are sold.

The company estimates that over 1 million counterfeit packs could be sold in Miami each year.

Source: John Reid Blackwell, “Philip Morris USA sues retailers in Miami area,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 21, 2011.

Counterfeit cigarettes in Australia causes $1.17 Billion (1.1 Billion Australian Dollars) in lost tax revenue annually.

Source: “Cigarette packaging war gets dirty,” World News Australia, June 14, 2011.

Due to smuggling activities, up to 34 percent of the tobacco market in Bulgaria in 2010 were made up of illegal tobacco. The portion of the cigarettes sold without taxes being paid or being counterfeits was higher in 2010 than the 18 percent rate in 2009 and the 14 percent rate in 2007.

The head of Customs in Bulgaria reported that 90 percent of the cigarettes smuggled into the country comes from other European Union countries, with 70 percent coming from Greece.

Source: “Bulgaria Customs Head: EU Main Source of Smuggled Cigarettes,” Sofia News Agency, June 2, 2011.

Source: “PMI: Bulgaria 3rd in EU by Cigarette Smuggling,”, January 5, 2011.

Cigarette smuggling in Pakistan causes $116 Million (10 Billion Pakistan Rupees) to be lost in tax revenue for the government of Pakistan.

15 billion smuggled cigarettes are sold within Pakistan each year.

Source: “Duty-unpaid cigarettes causing Rs10b loss to exchequer,” Nation, May 25, 2011.

Cigarette smuggling causes losses of up to $14 Billion (10 Billion Euros) each year to the budgets of the European Union and member states.

Source: Elaine Edwards, “Cigarette smugglers ‘using Ireland’,”Irish Times, May 4, 2011.

Young teenagers from Indian Reservations on the US-Canada border can earn up to $200 per truck when unloading smuggled cigarettes in the United States.

See all of Havocscope’s collection of jobs that pay under the table illegally here.

Source: Lorraine Mallinder, “Indian reservation: a smuggler’s playground,” GlobalPost, April 27, 2011.

In 2009 and 2010, the government of Ireland lost over $1.4 Billion (1 Billion Euros) to cigarette smuggling, with 24 percent of all cigarettes smoked in 2010 being bought without taxes being paid.

Previously, it was reported that the tax loss in Ireland from the illegal tobacco trade was $1.1 Billion (750 Million Euros) in 2009.

Source: “Illegal tobacco trade ‘declining’,” Irish Examiner, April 27, 2011.

6 percent of all cigarettes smoked in Spain in the first three months of 2011 were smuggled. This is an increase from the one percent of contraband cigarettes smoked in all of 2010.

Source: AFP, “Cigarette smuggling soars in Spain after tax hike: company,” Expatica, April 4, 2011.

A 40 foot shipping container full of counterfeit cigarettes causes $350,000 in lost tax revenue for state and federal agencies, according to a Phillip Morris spokesman.

5 to 10 percent of all shipping containers are physically inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Source: Ronald D. White, “Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are on the front lines of a crackdown on counterfeit goods,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2011.