France holds the dubious distinction of being the EU’s leader in black market cigarette sales. Today, almost 1 in 10 cigarettes consumed in France is contraband, which represents approximately 7.61 billion cigarettes (an estimated 25% of these illegal cigarettes come from Algeria). These worrying statistics show a 300% increase in black-market sales between 2012 and 2016.
Tomas Zdechovsky, a member of the European parliament, wants France to accept help from other member states to fix the problem. Currently, in three years, the European Anti-Fraud Office has seized over 1.5 billion cigarettes. But in order to remain effective, it is essential that everyone fighting illegal cigarette sales play their part.
Currently, France refuses to accept outside help. Paradoxically, no French government after Matignon has been able to implement an effective system to fight the black market. In France, each time the price of tobacco goes up, so too does the number of contraband cigarettes.
A danger to the economy and to national security
The amount of uncollected taxes in France is approximately 2.09 billion Euros. This significant number rose to 14.5 billion Euros in 2017.
Economics are not the only reason why this news is concerning. Illegal cigarette sales also benefit terrorist networks. Numerous criminal organizations are involved in illegal cigarette trafficking, a lucrative and easy-to-manage market. In fact, it has been proven that Al-Qaida makes significant money from selling illegal cigarettes. In order to fight the scourge, in 2017 France increased trafficking fines and prison sentences by up to 250,000 Euros and up to 10 years in prison.