A total of 10 billion cigarettes were lit up in 2016, 200m more than in the year before, the AD reports.
The finding comes from the annual SUN report drawn up by accountancy firm KPMG for the tobacco industry, which looks into illicit cigarette trade in the European Union. It appears to confirm figures from the CBS indicating that smoking, especially among the young, is on the increase.
The cigarette industry, however, puts the rise down to the fact that fewer people went abroad on holiday, when smokers often take advantage of duty-free prices. ‘Fewer cigarettes were bought legally in other countries. Those cigarettes were legally purchased in the Netherlands,’ Philip Morris spokesperson Stefanie Pollet told the AD.
The report, which was published on Monday, signals a significant increase in illegally produced cigarettes. Some 720 million illegal cigarettes were smoked in the Netherlands in 2015, up 100 million compared with 2015. The rest of the 12 billion cigarettes smoked in this country were legally imported or bought tax free at airports.
Most illegal cigarettes are smuggled in from Poland, Belarus and Russia although some of the production also takes place in the Netherlands. In Utrecht police recently shut down a factory producing hundreds of thousands of cigarettes a day.
According to Pollet, the clampdown on illicit cigarette trading in Eastern Europe has meant production has moved to Western Europe.
Despite the increase in purchases, tax revenue has not gone up significantly, the AD writes. Smoking accounted for some €2.478bn in revenue last year, €55m more than in 2015. However, based on a tax increase on cigarettes the tax office had expected an increase of €100m.
The tobacco industry is against large tax hikes that it says will only favour the illicit trade in cigarettes. According to the AD revenue for the treasury has gone down in spite of four consecutive tax rises. The industry therefore favours a moderate increase on cigarettes, the paper writes.
The KPMG’s annual reports have not been uncontroversial. Last year’s report was heavily criticised by anti-smoking organisations for being biased.
‘Our own studies show that the illicit trade in cigarettes has not increased in Europe in the last twenty years,’ the AD quoted spokesman for the Belgian Anti-Cancer Association Luk Joossen as saying. ‘But such a finding would not be advantageous to the tobacco industry. Even when cigarette smuggling is down, tobacco companies will keep saying it is a huge problem and that hikes in tax will be a huge boost to illicit trade,’ Joossen told the AD at the time.
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