Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Focus more on illegal trade, Carreras urges Gov't

Published:Monday | June 1, 2015 | 6:01 AM

THE GOVERNMENT has been challenged to focus on getting a better grasp of the illegal tobacco trade, with emphasis on the illegal trade in cigarettes, which Carreras cigarette company contends poses a greater threat to the health of Jamaicans and the economy than the legal trade in cigarettes.

In a press release issued to coincide with the global observance of World No Tobacco Day yesterday, the local distributor of Matterhorn and Craven 'A' cigarettes cites a study conducted by KMPG on the illegal trade in Latin America and the Caribbean, calling for greater collaboration among all stakeholders to fight it.

The report states that 46 billion cigarettes, the equivalent of 18.6 per cent of the total number consumed in the region, are either smuggled in, or counterfeit, which if sold legally in the countries where they were consumed would have generated some US$3.8 billion in tax revenue for the respective governments.

In fact, if the regional illegal tobacco market was a country, it would be the second largest by volume in Latin and Central America behind Brazil (total cigarette consumption of 106.38 billion) and ahead of Argentina (total cigarette consumption of 45.03 billion).

The report commissioned by British American Tobacco examined the scale of illegal tobacco markets in countries in the regions. Among its key findings is that the highest levels of illegal tobacco consumption were found in Panama (60 per cent), El Salvador (31 per cent), Suriname (23 per cent) and Jamaica (22 per cent).

Carreras believes that these findings support its call that if the Jamaican Government's focuses solely on regulating and introducing draconian measures on the legal cigarette business, that effort will be in vain.

This view seems to echo the sentiments of Dr Knox Hagley, chairman of the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control (JCTC), in his message for this year's observance of World No Tobacco Smoking Day.

"The JCTC is calling for measures to reduce the illicit trade of tobacco in Jamaica. While avoidance of taxes may be the motivation for illicit trade, smuggling cannot be explained by tax levels alone. In many European countries with high taxes, there is little evidence of smuggling; while in Spain, Italy and many Central and Eastern European countries, which have much lower tobacco taxes and prices, illegal sale of international cigarette brands is widespread," he noted.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com