A study of discarded packets and cigarette butts collected between April 18 and May 9 found that 21.8 percent of cigarettes consumed had escaped Belgian tax authorities, accounting for around €700 million ($699.69) in lost tax revenue.
Of the untaxed cigarettes, 1.9 percent were counterfeit. The remaining 19.9 percent were legally brought into Belgium from countries with a lower tax burden. Of the cigarettes purchased outside of Belgium, more than half (51.8 percent) came from Bulgaria. Other countries of origin included Poland (7.8 percent of supply), Turkey (6.88 percent) and Romania (3.67 percent).
During Cimabel’s previous semi-annual survey, which took place in October 2021, the share of untaxed cigarettes was 13.8 percent. The organization attributes the increase in tax-evading tobacco products to drastic tax hikes introduced on April 1, 2022, which have encouraged smokers to find cheaper ways of purchasing cigarettes.
Cimabel urged the Belgian government to refrain from further tobacco tax hikes.
“As long as the federal government continues to drastically increase excise duties on tobacco products each year, the demand for cheap cigarettes will continue to grow, and criminal organizations will continue their illegal practices on Belgian territory,” the federation warned.