One of the biggest concerns with illicit cigarettes is that they cannot be tracked, and currently, most law enforcement agencies do not have strong data bases concerning smuggling and illegal sales. The lack of tracking and the banality of cigarettes in the world make illicit cigarettes an easy item to smuggle across any border, international included. The fact that Big Tobacco is directly responsible for the production and sale of illicit cigarettes has come to light as of late, and therefore it is possible to connect Big Tobacco to the profits that terrorist organizations are making by selling illicit cigarettes that are smuggled all over the world.
The WHO is looking to stick to its agenda, and unfortunately they have little interest in the statistics that involve terror risks in cigarette smuggling. The WHO also doesn’t make an effort to expose the illegal cigarette market, as they do not track shipments of raw materials used to make cigarettes which could unveil covert factories and unreported sales. This is despite the fact that the WHO has recognized that illicit cigarette production is almost as big as legal cigarette production.
Additional problems have surfaced since the United Nations General Assembly which was held in Adis Ababa in 2015. At the General Assembly, it was agreed upon that higher taxation for tobacco products would lead to more government funding for country development and health initiatives. The WHO was clearly pleased with this outcome, as they see higher taxation as a significant and effective way to reduce tobacco consumption and healthcare costs, as well gain revenue that can be used for financing development in many countries.
The leadership of the WHO and the UN rationalize their decision by saying that higher the taxes on tobacco products will cause less people to be able to purchase them, which will push more nicotine addicts to quit smoking. However, many see higher taxation on tobacco products as an instigator for higher tobacco smuggling rates. It has been well established that cigarette smuggling means more profits for terrorists, extremists, and cartels, meaning that higher taxes on tobacco products is actually good news for these beneficiaries of the black market illicit cigarette money.
All of these facts have been presented to the WHO on numerous occasions. In fact, in the interview with Insider Sources, the former government agent claimed that “when you bring it up at some of these meetings, they literally don’t want to hear it because they have an agenda. We start playing tapes, we show them videos, we show them shipping records to say this is not anecdotal. There are hundreds of billions of [illicit cigarettes] every year making their way around the globe.” This raises major concerns as to the dedication of the WHO to bring down Big Tobacco once and for all.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the WHO is making an effort at taking down Big Tobacco. Margaret Chan has made it very clear that taking down the industry is her prerogative. However, one must question how far the WHO is willing to go, and why they are turning a blind eye to the terror threats that are intertwined in the industry’s black market.