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Illicit trade, tobacco industry-funded studies and policy influence in the EU and UK
  1. Gary Jonas Fooks,
  2. Silvy Peeters,
  3. Karen Evans-Reeves
  1. Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gary Jonas Fooks, Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK; g.fooks{at}

Statistics from

In the course of the last decade, the tobacco industry has attempted to increase the political salience of the illicit trade in tobacco products (illicit trade) (box 1).1 ,2 Tobacco companies have claimed that sharp rises in tobacco taxation and innovative regulation, such as standardised packaging and product display bans, are drivers of the illicit trade, and have advocated programmes of engagement with policymakers and other social actors in an effort to ensure that the issue is given greater consideration in health policymaking.2–5

Box 1

Major activities comprising the illicit trade in tobacco products.6–8

Transcrime adopts the definition of illicit trade outlined in the World Health Organisation, Framework Convention of Tobacco Control, namely, ‘any practice or conduct prohibited by law and which relates to production, shipment, receipt, possession, distribution, sale or purchase including any practice or conduct intended to facilitate such activity’.6 ,9 This covers:

  • Smuggling – The unlawful movement or transportation of tobacco products (including counterfeit products) from one tax jurisdiction to another without the payment of taxes or in breach of laws prohibiting their import or export.8

  • Counterfeiting – Cigarettes manufactured and packaged to imitate an established brand without the owner's consent.

  • Cheap or illicit whites – Cigarettes produced legally in one country but intended for smuggling into countries where there is no prior legal market for them. Taxes in the country of production are typically paid, but avoided in destination countries.

  • Unbranded tobacco – Manufactured, semimanufactured and loose leaves of tobacco carrying neither labelling nor health warnings.

  • Bootlegging – Tobacco legally bought in a low-tax country by individuals or small groups and then smuggled into a country with higher tax rates and illegally resold.

  • Illegal manufacturing – Cigarettes manufactured for consumption which are not declared to the tax authorities. …

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