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.

22 percent of the alcohol sold in Costa Rica is sold illegally without the payment of taxes, according to the Finance Ministry. Over 90 percent of the contraband alcohol is smuggled into the country.

Financial authorities also seized 12.3 million black market cigarettes that were being smuggled without the payment of duties in the first 10 months of 2013. The amount of illegal tobacco seized was 5 times higher than the 2.3 million black market cigarettes that were seized in all of 2012.

Source:  Zach Dyer, “Bootleggers make bank with black-market booze, cigarettes,” Tico Times, December 18, 2013.

The Vietnam Tobacco Association states that over 100 different brands of cigarettes are smuggled into Vietnam each year. The brands Jet and Hero are the most popular, with the two brands consisting of over 90 percent of the smuggled tobacco in the country.

Roughly 20 percent of the country’s tobacco market is smuggled cigarettes. Most of the black market tobacco are smuggled into the country from China, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Source:  “Vietnam Prepares For Rise In Cigarette Smuggling As New Year Festival Looms,” Bernama, November 13, 2013

According to a study conducted by KPMG, 1,433 tonnes of illegal tobacco was smuggled into Australia in 2013, an increase of 154 percent from the previous year.

13.3 percent of all tobacco sales in Australia were of black market cigarettes.

With taxes and fees included, people in Australia pay nearly $20 Australian dollars for a pack of cigarettes. In the South East Asia region, where many of the cigarettes are smuggled from, the packs of tobacco can cost as low as $1.08 AUD.

It was previously reported that the Australian Government losses up to $2.1 Billion a year due to cigarette smuggling.

Source:  Alan Howe, “Illicit tobacco funding gangs and increasing use,” News.Com.Au, November 3, 2013.

Australia’s government lost up to $1.1 Billion in tobacco tax revenue in 2012 due to cigarette smuggling activities.

Security agencies in Australia 82 million black market cigarettes in 2011. In 2012, the number of illicit cigarettes increased to 122 million.

2.7 billion cigarettes were smoked in the country in 2012 that were purchased without the payment of taxes, or 11.3 percent of all cigarettes smoked. Most of the contraband cigarettes were either smuggled into Australia from China or South Korea or produced in homegrown tobacco shops.

Source:  Lily Kuo, “Australia lost $1.1 billion because of illegal cigarettes last year,” Quartz, October 2, 2013.

A survey conducted by accounting company PwC found that 18 percent of consumers in Britain admitted to purchasing counterfeit alcohol. 16 percent reported purchasing counterfeit drugs such as Viagra and weight-loss pills. And 13 percent admitted to buying counterfeit cigarettes.

British consumers between the ages of 18 to 34 bought the most counterfeits, with 60 percent saying that they bought pirated movies and music and 55 percent have bought replica clothing.

Source:  Rebecca Smithers, “Surge in purchases of counterfeit goods,” Guardian, October 1, 2013.

A study by the International Tax and Investment Centre and Oxford Economics found that 900 million cigarettes were bought on the black market in Singapore. The amount of tax revenue lost to the government was estimated to be around $276 Million (347 Million Singaporean Dollars).

Based on the total amount of cigarettes smoked in Singapore, roughly one in four cigarettes smoked in 2012 was purchased on the black market.

Security agencies arrested 6,248 people for buying illegal cigarettes in 2012, an increase from the 5,977 arrested in 2011.

Source:  Joyce Lim, “1 in 4 cigarettes in Singapore illegal,” Asian One, September 29, 2013.

Tax enforcement officials in Malaysia investigated 175 cases of counterfeit cigarette sales in the country between 2012 through September 2013. The value of the black market cigarettes seized by security agencies was worth $36,000 (117,800 Malaysian Ringgit).

A legitimate pack of cigarettes with taxes included is sold for $2.17 (7 Ringgit). A counterfeit pack is sold illegally for $0.93 (3 Ringgit).

Source:  Bernama, “Smuggling of fake cigarettes on the rise,” New Straits Times, September 26, 2013.

An independent research organization in Romania released a study that claimed $24 Billion (€18 Billion) in government revenue was lost due to tax evasion activities. The amount lost is equal to 13.8 percent of the country’s GDP.  In terms of percentages, the amount lost in 2012 was slightly lower than the record high of 15 percent in 2011.

Evading cigarette taxes accounted for $388 Million (€291 Million) in losses. Cigarette smuggling accounted for 13.3 percent of the overall tobacco market in Romania.

Evading alcohol taxes accounted for $257 Million (€193 Million) in losses. Alcohol smuggling accounted for 45.7 percent of the overall alcohol market in Romania.

Source:  “Tax evasion in Romania stood at 13.8 percent of GDP last year,”, September 16, 2013.

According to a report by the Tax Foundation, 19.1 percent of all cigarettes consumed in the US State of Florida in 2011 was smuggled into the state and sold without tax payment.

$1.24 Billion in cigarette taxes was paid in Florida in 2012. Based on the percentage of smuggled cigarettes, Florida lost around $240 Million in tax revenue to cigarettes sold on the black market.

Smugglers are able to purchase cigarettes in the neighboring state of Georgia and make a $1 profit by selling the pack in Florida.

Source:  “Cigarette smuggling in Florida increases,” Action News Jax, September 6, 2013.

The Managing Director for British American Tobacco Uganda claims that over 20 percent of the cigarette market in Uganda is made up of counterfeit cigarettes packs.

Packs of cigarettes in Uganda are subject to a 42 percent excise tax.

The smuggling of tobacco products in Uganda is most active on the borders shared with South Sudan.

Source:  Joseph Kimbowa, “‘Counterfeits affecting BAT, tax revenues’,” Observer (Uganda), September 5, 2013.