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Public perception of illicit tobacco trade

Cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products cause an estimated EUR 10 billion loss to the EU and national budgets every year. These illegal activities both damage public health and have been proven to finance organised crime. Moreover, the tobacco black market targets vulnerable groups in society, undermining strategies to inhibit and dissuade the consumption of tobacco products.

Therefore, OLAF commissioned a Eurobarometer survey in 2016 to uncover and explore the attitudes and opinions of Europeans in regards to cigarette black market. The survey, entitled "Public perception of illicit tobacco trade", pooled the answers of 27,672 respondents from different social and demographic groups in 28 Member States.

The respondents identified loss of taxes for the state as one of the main problems of the black market in cigarettes. Moreover, while 69% of those polled believed illegal drugs to be one of the most important sources of revenue for organised crime, only 14% thought black market cigarettes financed criminal networks. While a majority of respondents said they had never been offered black market cigarettes, these were shown to have a larger penetration in Eastern European countries, such as Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Croatia. Low prices were found to be the most commonly-mentioned reason for smoking black market cigarettes.

The findings of the Eurobarometer should help Member States better target awareness-raising campaigns to fight cigarette smuggling.

Read the Eurobarometer report and summary

Country-specific fact sheets are available for all EU Member States: