Greece has the second highest percentage of illicit cigarettes in the European Union after France, resulting in a loss of income for the Greek economy to 551 million euros in 2020 and to exceed 3.6 billion euros between 2015 and 2020.
Although the illicit cigarette trade in Greece has declined slightly compared to 2019, it is still high, according to the findings of a new annual independent report by KPMG, conducted on behalf of Philip Morris International, published in June 2021.
The report shows that “the illicit cigarette market in Greece in 2020 is 22.4%, slightly down, with a loss of public funds of 551 million euros in 2020 (compared to 610 million euros in 2019).
At the same time, there was a further increase in the consumption of counterfeit cigarettes in Greece, to 1.62 billion pieces. Greece is the second EU country to actively consume smuggled cigarettes. The pandemic negatively affected the legal cigarette market, but positively affected the illegal one.
What is the situation with this in the EU?
In 2020, consumption of legal cigarettes in the EU fell by 4.7% to 438.8 billion cigarettes, while consumption of illegal cigarettes increased. A total of 34.2 billion illegal cigarettes were consumed, which corresponds to 7.8% of the total cigarette consumption in the EU. and a loss of € 8.5 billion for European funds.
France became the state with the highest percentage of illicit cigarette circulation (23.1%). In 2020, there is a huge increase in the consumption of counterfeit cigarettes, exceeding 600%. This is followed by Greece with 22.4% and Lithuania with 20.2%.
In contrast, Romania was the country with the largest reduction in illicit cigarette consumption, at $ 1.3 billion.
“The illicit trade in cigarettes is not only a problem for our industry. We all bear economic and social costs. The lost revenue to the public treasury is enormous and the growth of criminal networks through smuggling remains a big threat, ”said Christos Harpantidis, President and CEO of Papastratos.
He said that “the Greek law enforcement agencies are making tremendous efforts to eliminate this phenomenon. A few months ago, Greek police dismantled Europe’s largest illegal cigarette factory, and just a few weeks ago, Greek customs authorities confiscated 340 million illegal cigarettes! We reaffirm our commitment to support all competent authorities and their work, proving in practice that public-private partnerships can provide solutions to major problems. “
In this regard, Philip Morris International recently announced the launch of the third round of the PMI IMPACT funding program, which strengthens the initiatives of organizations involved in the suppression of the illicit cigarette trade. Recall that recently the Coast Guard received 5 modern operational vessels worth $ 2.4 million.
“It is vital that we protect consumers from counterfeit products. The prosecutors, government and tax authorities that control the presence of excise (trademarks) must join forces to combat illegal traffic in Europe and beyond. said Alvise Giustiniani, Vice President of PMI. “This is especially important in the context of the transformation of Philip Morris International, which advocates a” cigarette-free future. ” We must continue to work together to counter any illicit trade threat and our innovative alternatives. Compliance with the law and its effective enforcement against criminal organizations that profit from illegal trade is an absolute must. ”