JTI called for greater international cooperation between government agencies, industry and law enforcement in tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes.
Speaking at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF) in Seoul, Sept. 19-21, Julian Cheung, the anti-illicit trade operations director for JTI’s Asia-Pacific region, warned that criminal groups involved in the illegal tobacco trade, siphon much-needed tax revenue from state budgets. “They don’t comply with laws and regulations and, therefore, taxpayers, governments and legitimate businesses are all paying a hefty price,” she noted.
“Billions of dollars in revenue are lost to this criminal activity,” said Chueng. In 2019, the World Bank estimated the cost of the illicit tobacco trade to governments at between $40 billion and $50 billion annually.
“Let’s shift the narrative surrounding illegal trade and act together,” said Chueng in her presentation. “Through innovative strategies, cooperation and a focus on disrupting the financial foundations of these criminal networks, we can curtail the illegal tobacco trade, and safeguard our communities and economies.”
Chueng’s call for action fit well with the GTNF’s theme, “Change the Conversation. Change the Outcome.” The conference brought together hundreds of stakeholders from across the industry, including businesses, research consulting groups, scientists, public policy and regulatory experts and educators, to discuss industry trends and challenges and share best practice thinking.