A new EU-wide public poll on the perception of the illicit tobacco trade reveals that cigarette smuggling continues to be a major concern for EU citizens. The findings of today’s poll seek to help Member States better target related awareness-raising campaigns to lower demand for illegal tobacco.
The illicit tobacco trade is harmful to the well-being of European citizens not only in terms of the estimated to be €10 billion lost in taxes across the EU each year, but also because of the impact it has for security and on public health. Organised crime gangs dominate the tobacco black market and target vulnerable groups, undermining initiatives to dissuade consumption of tobacco products.
The 2019 survey analyses the attitudes and opinions of Europeans from different socio-demographic groups in the 28 Member States towards the illicit tobacco market. The findings remain broadly consistent with those of a previous 2016 survey:
- respondents consider the loss of taxes for the state and the revenue it generates for organised crime to be the main problems of the black market in cigarettes (40% and 38% respectively)
- most people (71%) believe illegal drugs to be one of the most important sources of revenue for organised crime, followed by prostitution and human trafficking (42%), with only a minority (15%) mentioning black market cigarettes
- low prices are the most commonly mentioned reason for smoking black market cigarettes (75%), well ahead of easy availability (9%). In some Member States, a higher proportion of citizens gave this answer compared to 2016, for example in the Netherlands (+31%)
- with only 17% of those polled having been offered black market cigarettes, the overall penetration of the market in these cigarettes has slightly decreased since 2016 (-2%).
The 2019 Eurobarometer is part of a package of measures that the European Commission adopted in December 2018 to address both the supply of and the demand for illegal tobacco products.
These measures – put together in an Action Plan – seek to ensure the effective fight against illicit tobacco products. They include actions to fully exploit the potential of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Protocol and the roll-out of the new EU traceability system, required under the Protocol. Other examples include measures to engage key source and trade countries, thus limiting the supply arriving at EU's borders, as well as to raise awareness among consumers.
Country-specific fact sheets are available for all EU Member States:
- Publication date
- 19 July 2019
- European Anti-Fraud Office
- News type
- OLAF news article