PMI battling illicit trading

Firm’s $100m fund offers support globally for organisations acting against illegal tobacco.

PMI has been investing in anti-illicit activity through its PMI Impact scheme.
PMI has been investing in anti-illicit activity through its PMI Impact scheme.

PHILIP Morris International is calling for new applications for PMI impact – the firm’s $100m global initiative to support projects dedicated to fighting illegal trade in all forms.

The call follows the release of a new KPMG report, commissioned by PMI, examining the consumption of illegal cigarettes.

For the UK market, the KPMG report found that in total, there were 30.6bn cigarettes consumed in 2020, down nearly 7% on 2019. The proportion of illegal counterfeit and contraband cigarettes rose to 17.1%, or 5.2bn cigarettes – an increase of 230m on 2020.
KPMG also found counterfeit cigarettes at a five year high, up 9% on 2019 and estimated the cost to the tax payer in lost revenue to illicit cigarettes at £2.2bn.

To help tackle the illicit trade, PMI’s Impact scheme funds initiatives to prevent illegal trade, welcoming applications from public, private or non-profit organisations including governmental organisations, international organisations, academic institutions and private companies.

PMI Impact has already funded research projects in the UK by bodies such as Oxford Economics, Royal United Services Institute and Euromonitor International.

Cem Uzundal, head of field force at PMI, warned that the illicit tobacco market is dangerous for consumer safety and harms legitimate retailers, who pay the price through lost trade.
Uzundal said: “Illicit products are completely unnecessary in this day and age. Smoke-free alternatives are widely available to legal-age smokers, which are both affordable and less harmful than continued smoking.

“The good news is that action is being taken. As lockdown restrictions have eased over the past few months, Philip Morris Limited has resumed sending test purchase teams to shops across the UK, with visits to Scotland imminent.

“We gather intelligence which assists local authorities and law enforcement with their ongoing efforts to clamp down on illegal trade.

“We are also working with retailers – and others in the industry – to raise awareness of legitimate alternatives that have wider benefits for adult consumers and meet expectations on satisfaction.

“With 45% of retailers feeling they are part of an adult customer’s journey to becoming smoke-free, we know we can play an important role in educating retailers and supporting them in combatting illicit trade in their area.”