Illegal 'white' cigarettes make up a third of UAE's sales: report

Global report said smugglers helping boost profits of legitimate tobacco companies

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The Tobacco Atlas report of 2018 has warned of the growth of markets supporting illicit ‘white’ cigarettes claiming a third of manufacturers are operating from free trade zones.

Cheap whites, or illicit whites, are products made legally in a factory with the approval of an overseas licensing authority, but may fall short of product standards in the country where they are ultimately sold.

“It is estimated that 98 per cent of illicit cigarettes traded globally are products of legitimate tobacco manufacturers,” the report said.

“Smuggling helps these companies generate higher profits by enabling them to pay tobacco taxes in jurisdictions with lower levies, or to not pay taxes at all.”

The report claims that the UAE, Cyprus and Russia, are countries producing cigarettes that are smuggled into third-party countries, undermining tobacco control policy.

It is estimated that these illegal imports currently account for 30 per cent of sales in the UAE and are often smuggled in from Iraq, Syria and Iran.


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In Sub-Saharan Africa, consumption of illicit white cigarettes increased by 52 per cent between 1980 and 2016, driven by population growth and aggressive tobacco marketing.

In Lesotho, prevalence is estimated to have increased from 15 per cent in 2004 to 54 per cent in 2015, as economic growth has increased consumers’ ability to afford tobacco products. A lack of control interventions to deter tobacco use has also fuelled the rise.