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.

In Northern Mali, a cigarette smuggler is paid $200 (100,000- CFA Francs) for a single trip transporting tobacco across the Sahara Desert.  If the same smuggler is transporting cocaine, then the smuggler would be paid $2,000.

(All under the table jobs and criminal income.)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that up to 18 tonnes of cocaine is smuggled through West Africa on its way to Europe. The cocaine has a street value of $1.25 Billion.

(See the price of cocaine per gram worldwide.)

Source:  Afua Hirsch, “Cocaine flows through Sahara as al-Qaida cashes in on lawlessness,” Guardian, May 2, 2013.

A survey conducted by KPMG found that an estimated 65.5 billion illegal cigarettes are sold in the European Union each year. EU member states lose an estimated $16.3 Billion (€12.5 Billion) in total tax revenue due to the illicit trade.

In Germany, one in five cigarettes smoked does not get taxed.

Source:  “German tobacco sales decrease as smuggling is up,” Deutsche Welle, April 22, 2013.

Smugglers from North Korea are smuggling boxes full cigarettes into China and earning up to $8 per box. Each box consists of 500 cigarettes produced in North Korea. One smuggler told a reporter that he is able to make up to $8 per box when sold illegally on the black market in China.

China has over 300 million smokers and consumers one-third of all cigarettes worldwide.

In North Korea, a pack of cigarettes costs about $0.50 (3,500 North Korean Won) on the black market. Popular brands of tobacco in the country are Gohyang, Craven, and Yeomyeong.

Source:  Sung Hui Moon, “North Korean Smugglers Cash in as More Chinese Light Up,” Radio Free Asia, April 3, 2013.

23.5 Billion illegal cigarettes were smoked in Pakistan in 2012. Illegal tobacco consists of cigarettes that avoided tax payments, were smuggled into the country, or were counterfeits.

Tobacco taxes in Pakistan make up 68.5 to 81 percent of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes.

Source:  Javed Mirza, “Illicit cigarette trade to cost Rs100 billion to exchequer,” The News (Pakistan), March 19, 2013.

According to government officials in Ireland, the average price a legitimate pack of cigarettes sold in retail stores is $12 (€9.20).

Criminal gangs purchase counterfeit packs for as little as $0.26 (€0.20), and then sell the packs on the black market for $5.87 (€4.50).

In 2011, an estimated 770 million illegal cigarettes were smoked in Ireland.

Source: Fiona O’shea, “Black market cigarette trade on the increase,” Independent (Ireland), March 17, 2013.

The State of New Jersey in the United States loses an estimated $500 Million a year in tax revenue due to cigarette smuggling.

40 percent of all cigarette packs in the state is sold illegally on the black market without the payment of taxes.

Smuggling gangs are able make a $4 profit for each pack sold.

Source:  Matt Sugam, “Cigarette Smuggling Costing New Jersey,”, March 5, 2013.

In 2012, there was increase of 10 percent in the number of illicit or counterfeit cigarettes that were smuggled into the United Kingdom, according to a survey commissioned by tobacco companies.

The city of London had the highest amount of contraband cigarettes with 35 percent of the market being fakes or smuggled cigarettes.

In total, the United Kingdom Government losses up to $5.4 Billion in tobacco tax revenue each year due to smuggling activities.

Source:  Justin Davenport, “Third of cigarettes are illicit as smuggling is new ‘crime of choice’,” London Evening Standard, March 4, 2013.

Criminal smuggling gangs in the European Union sell an estimated 65 billion cigarettes without the payment of taxes. The amount of contraband cigarettes sold by smugglers is equal to 10 percent of the entire tobacco market in the EU.

The smugglers make a profit of $6.5 Billion (€5 Billion) a year from their activities.

Source:  Martin Banks, “EU commission plans crackdown on ‘social evil’ of cigarette smuggling,” Parliament, February 28, 2013.

Cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco estimates that the illegal tobacco trade in Cambodia generates $16 Million a year in profits each year.

The total value of the legitimate retail tobacco market in Cambodia is between $30 to $40 Million per year.

Source:  Philip Heijmans, “Up in smoke,” Bangkok Post, February 26, 2013.

The Vietnam Tobacco Association stated that cigarette producers in the country lost $193.5 Million in revenue from cigarette smuggling activities in 2012. An estimated 12.9 billion cigarettes were believed to have been smuggled into Vietnam during the year.

Cigarettes sold on the black market makes up between 18 to 22 percent of the total tobacco market in Vietnam.

Source:  Philip Heijmans, “Up in smoke,” Bangkok Post, February 26, 2013.