An investigation commissioned by the audit firm KPMG has just revealed some troubling news about tobacco sales in France. 55.1% of all cigarettes purchased in Marseille came from the black market. However, Marseille is dethroned by other large cities, like Versailles, where 58.8% of all cigarettes come from the black market. The gold medal, however, goes to Roubaix, where 67.7% of cigarettes were sold illegally.
Logically, cities on internatiTraonal borders are the most susceptible to illegal cigarette trafficking. The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is at the top of the list, where 42% of the cigarettes are contraband. The Hauts-de-France region comes in second, and the East in third, with rates of 35.1% and 33.3%, respectively.
In France, legislation for the sale of tobacco is strict—only tobacconists are authorized to sell cigarettes. Outside of this network, the distribution of tobacco products is illegal. Those caught selling contraband on the street can face a fine of up to €3,750 and up to one year in prison. In the case of counterfeiting, the penalties are much heavier: up to a €750,000 fine and 7 years of imprisonment. In reality, however, few people are ever arrested, and the black market continues to thrive.
A black market with quite the future
The explosion of illegal cigarette trafficking is connected to price. Today, in legal tobacconists, packets are sold for €8, which is almost three Euros more than packets found on the black market. Understandably, people with low incomes tend to purchase cheap cigarettes found on the black market.
According to experts, the increase in tobacco taxes that the government instated in 2010 can only be counterproductive to this problem. With the price of a pack of cigarettes now almost €10, the drop in consumption will only be marginal, since black market sales and an increase in trafficking remain inevitable.
To properly fight against illegal cigarette trafficking, there are two main options: either increase the police presence in the streets to reduce the number of street sellers, or increase the amount of anti-smoking campaigns and encourage citizens to quit smoking.