Smokers the world over consume a staggering 657 billion cigarettes that are illegally smuggled into their countries every year. And this number is growing. A recent World Lung Foundation report found that the illicit cigarette racket causes a combined revenue loss of $40.5 billion a year for governments.
The report “How eliminating the global illicit cigarette trade would increase tax revenues and save lives” was submitted at the Framework Conventional Alliance’s (FCA) Geneva conference in July 2009. It says low income countries are the worst offenders. For instance, half the cigarettes puffed in Georgia and 40 per cent of those smoked in Bosnia, Bolivia and Uzbekistan are smuggled into the countries. China scores in sheer volume: 214 billion smuggled sticks were sold in China in 2007 alone. India ranks at 7 with 18 billion coming into the country through illicit trade.
“If the global illicit trade were eliminated, governments would gain at least $31 billion, and from 2030 onwards would save over 160,000 lives a year,” says Hana Ross of the International Tobacco Control Research and a member of the team that carried out the survey.