In response to the high levels of illegal tobacco, and in particular illicit whites (cigarettes that are produced in one market and are primarily smuggled into and sold in another market where they have no legal distribution), PML is launching a nationwide educational programme for independent retailers. Through their newly created PML National Field Force, 6,500 independent retailers will be presented with the EX-IT Programme over the next four months.
The campaign is designed to heighten awareness of the illicit trade in tobacco and encourage both retailers and the general public to report illegal sales or suspicions to HMRC or Crimestoppers.
Gerald Margolis, Sales Director for Phillip Morris Limited said: “The damaging impact of the illicit trade in tobacco is widespread, causing the Treasury to lose billions of pounds each year through to affecting the livelihoods of hard working and law abiding retailers and Cash & Carry outlets across the UK. We hope that the EX-IT programme will help to raise awareness of this criminal activity and that by working together we can all play a part in tackling it.”
A number of test purchase operations were undertaken by Will O’Reilly, a former Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector in key cities across the UK. Each operation was conducted over a two day period and a significant amount of illicit tobacco products were purchased.
Will O’Reilly said: “We found illicit cigarettes easy to obtain across the UK.. Contraband cigarettes are smuggled illegally into the country with unpaid duty and VAT. Once here they are sold cheaply in shops and pubs, including to children. The Treasury is losing billions of pounds a year and that shortfall has to be found somewhere, costing every family over £250 a year. The problem is growing because organised criminals are moving away from more dangerous activities like drug smuggling, to tobacco where there is more profit.”
Much of the profit goes to organised criminals who smuggle drugs, people and arms. In some places it has also been linked to terrorists.
HMRC estimates that nationwide illegal tobacco costs the taxpayer £2.1bn a year. The mid-range estimate shows that around 10% of manufactured cigarettes and 35% of the hand rolling tobacco market in the UK is now illegal.
Supported by HMRC’s Hotline and Crimestoppers, the campaign will champion retailers as responsible sellers and seeks to drive awareness of the illicit trade in tobacco and the effect it has on legitimate businesses. Retailers will be given a range of materials including posters, leaflets and stickers to assist them.
• Causes local retailers to lose sales and face closure
• Causes lost jobs in local businesses
• Makes it easier for kids to access illegal cigarettes
• Brings violence to our communities; and
• Means less government funding to spend on public services.
Roger Critchell, Director of Operations for Crimestoppers, said: “As a crime-fighting charity we support this campaign to rid the streets of illegal tobacco – an offence that has strong links to serious and organised crime and is used to finance serious criminal activity. We all have a responsibility to tackle crime and ensure our communities are a safe place to live, so I would ask that anyone who has any information on those importing or supplying illegal tobacco to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, and I promise that no one will ever know you spoke to us.”
Philip Morris Limited
Philip Morris Limited is the UK affiliate of Philip Morris International (PMI), the leading international tobacco company, which owns seven of the world’s top 15 cigarette brands, including the world’s number one brand Marlboro. Founded in London in 1847, Philip Morris Incorporated established Philip Morris International (PMI) in 1967. Today PMI has over 90,000 employees worldwide and sells its products in over 180 countries globally.
Test Purchase Activity
Test purchases of tobacco products were normally made in each city/town over a two-day period. These are performed normally by four law-enforcement trained and experienced test purchasers.
These test purchases are always intelligence-led with the information derived from a number of sources or self-generated. In some cases this intelligence can be quite specific relating to a particular venue or person and in the other cases very vague, e.g., referring to areas of the city or a number of streets.