There is pretty much a consensus regarding the cost of tobacco corruption in the EU. The illicit tobacco market accounts for an average of one in every ten cigarettes consumed according to studies, including information supplied by the global customs community. The European Commission estimates that illicit trade in cigarettes costs the EU and its member states over € 10 billion annually in lost tax and customs revenue.
€ 10,000,000,000!!!! Stop for one second to digest that number and what it really means. Each year the EU losses € 10,000,000,000 - that's the equivalent of 10,000 neighborhood clinics (at an average operating budget of € 1 million per clinic) or thousands of additional schools, tens of thousands of playgrounds, 200,000 additional teachers, doctors, policemen, firemen - you get the picture. In short, a lot of great things could be done for the benefit of EU citizens in each country with such a huge amount of money.
Unfortunately, we can only dream of the above benefits to society at the moment. In reality, instead of enjoying the benefits of this enormous amount of money, we are being robbed every hour of every day, through a fine-tuned, highly efficient system that only benefits morally bankrupt corporations, criminals, corrupt politicians and corrupt public officials. The value chain of tobacco corruption is very extensive and well organised, and many interested parties have a lot to lose by changing the current status-quo that enables illicit trade, tax evasion and other misconduct to thrive.
There is overwhelming evidence that tobacco taxes reduce tobacco use, save lives and obviously increase government tax revenue - revenue that can be put to very good use for the benefit of citizens and society. The magnitude and effectiveness of taxes at reducing tobacco use provide an incentive for manufactures, criminal networks, politicians and officials to collaborate in devising ways to avoid or evade tobacco taxes and preserve the system that lets them pocket billions of euros each year. Tobacco tax avoidance and evasion - made possible through various activities, pose an array of challenges. Relative inexpensive, licit or illicit, tobacco products undermine public policies that seek to render tobacco products less affordable. Moreover, tax evaded cigarettes may be sold in packs or plastic bags which do not provide the information which is required by regulations, such as health warnings or information on toxic emissions. Weak tax measures can decrease government revenue available for health and social programs, lead to increased criminal justice expenditures, and provide unmonitored access to cigarettes for youngsters.
So remember that while tobacco executives, corrupt politicians and gangsters aren't going around with torches and burning down clinics, their conduct and involvement - whether done actively or by turning a blind eye - pretty much achieve the same devastating result. Tobacco control should be strictly enforced, by objective an organisation and not by the industry itself, for the benefit of the society.