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Cigarette smuggling threatens financial, social and health security of the EU and must be tackled effectively

EU Ministers of Economy and Finance on December 10 in Brussels have adopted the Council conclusions on stepping up the fight against cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products in the EU.

“The conclusions underline the need to enhance the fight against cigarette smuggling, which has considerable negative impact on health and causes substantial negative financial impact on the budget of the EU and the Member States, estimated annually at over 10 billion euros,” said Rimantas Šadžius, Lithuanian Finance Minister and chair of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council.

An effective response to the threats posed by the illegal trade of tobacco products can be ensured by coordinated and concerted efforts at national and European level, and in close cooperation with third countries and international organizations. The Council identified areas where additional measures are required, including the detection of illegally traded tobacco products, further improvement of investigations, cooperation with source and transit countries, awareness raising campaigns to discourage people from purchasing illicit tobacco products, and improvement of available expertise in national customs administrations, and other relevant EU and international authorities.

“Effective control of the EU external borders as well as fight against smuggling and fraud was one of the priorities of Lithuanian EU Council Presidency. Measures stepping up the fight against cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products in the EU featured prominently in the Presidency work programme. The EU and its Member States must protect EU and national budgets from losses, and to combat shadow economy, distortion of internal market, organised cross-border crime and health threat,” said Minister Šadžius.

Importantly, the Council invites the Commission, among others, to initiate international agreements on fighting illicit trade in tobacco products with third countries, to identify and present possible financing solutions for the Member States in their implementation of jointly agreed actions, in particular for appropriate tools for customs controls at the external borders of the EU.

The Council in its conclusions makes clear that the EU has tools and measures to minimise the scope for smuggling and diversion of tobacco products.

The progress in the area of enhancing fight against illicit trade of tobacco products will be communicated by the Commission to the Council every year with the final report due in 2017

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