As the anti-tobacco world turns its gaze to the mass smuggling in Africa, we need to be looking at Europe’s policy on Codentify, which could make worldwide smuggling even worse.
For years now, people have been taking notice of the sickening levels of tobacco smuggling around the world. As research as shown, not only does it contribute to failings in public health, whereby regulatory bodies can’t properly identify the ingredients of smuggled tobacco, but also it has been linked to various terrorist groups who use their profits from counterfeit tobacco to commit violent atrocities across the world.
According to the Times of Malta, worldwide tobacco smuggling is up 28% this year.
But nowhere is tobacco smuggling more rampant than in Africa. Just last week, Front Page Magazine did an expose about how tobacco smuggling supports worldwide terrorism, and they put a particular spotlight on the illegal trade in Africa. They brought up our old friend Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka “Mr. Marlboro”) as a prime example of how profits from the African counterfeit tobacco trade is funneled into terrorist organizations like Al-Mourabitoun.
All over the continent, authorities are catching people trying to smuggle cigarettes. Like this story from last week about two Zimbabwean truck drivers smuggling a cargo of illicit cigarettes valued at N$11.3 million (US $800,000) through Namibia.
According to Joseph Megero, Director of Africa Tobacco-Free Initiative an initiative that seeks to advance development and advocacy for tobacco control measures regionally: “Tobacco companies tend to raise the counterfeit issue with governments in Africa whenever the governments want to raise taxes on tobacco products. This is done to ensure the poor smoker is still able to sustain his addiction to tobacco by affording to buy cigarettes.”
Many more stories like these come in daily. Some with more, some with less. But, considering the rampant corruption in Africa, this is only the tip of the iceberg, since these stories are those where the authorities do their jobs without taking bribes.
Unfortunately, the problem will only get worse before it gets better. As corruption in Africa deepens, and terrorist organizations and their adherents get more desperate, smuggling tobacco will be their ultimate cash cow.
Meanwhile, the EU (The recipients of much of this tobacco) is still trying to get their act together to prevent an influx of illegal tobacco, which could trigger a continental health crisis as well as billions of euros lost from unreported taxes.
Now, you would think that the first people that would want to put a stop to this are the tobacco companies themselves, Big Tobacco. After all, if someone is smuggling their products it must mean that they are stealing it right? It must mean that the smugglers are taking profits away from Big Tobacco.
You would be wrong. In fact, smuggling has a positive effect on industry executives. For one, the industry avoids millions of Euros in taxes since their product is traded out of the sight of authorities. That also means cheaper production costs per cigarette overall and a higher markup. And lastly, if consumers are paying less for cigarettes, it means there are more likely customers – especially those with less disposable income. Namely, the young and poor. Counterfeit cigarettes are a great way for Big Tobacco to get young kids addicted early – giving the industry a handful of long term customers.
But while policymakers around the world scramble to find a legitimate technology that would properly track-and-trace sales of tobacco, why would Big Tobacco want to get involved if it is benefiting from smuggled tobacco?
Because if you can manipulate the technology, you can manipulate the entire system. You could essentially oversee your own counterfeit empire.
Which is why it would be in their own interest to work with the EU to develop a signature technology as the choice fight against tobacco smuggling.
And that’s exactly what’s happened with Codentify. Developed and lobbied by Big Tobacco in order to be the puppeteers of a vast network of tobacco smuggling cells across the world, and particularly in Africa, where smuggling is currently off the charts. But it’s possible that Codentify’s imminent implementation into EU policy has revved up efforts to trade illicit cigarettes across the Mediterranean and in and out of Europe, where cigarette taxes are heavy.
That is why it’s imperative that Codentify not be allowed to be implemented. If it is chosen as the EU’s official technology, time will tell its effect. Smuggling – already at crippling levels – will skyrocket to unfathomable heights.
And meanwhile, Big Tobacco will be rolling in the riches; chuckling at how easily they duped the European Commission to take the system that they engineered for the very purpose of filling their own pockets.
So as the murmurs of Codentify’s instatement continue to fill the halls of the European Parliament, and as its members deliberate the pros and cons of the technology while Big Tobacco lobbyists indoctrinate and inflict their agenda – those with common sense must stand up and warn the people – and the politicians – what they are bringing upon themselves.
Whether it’s Codentify, Inexto or whatever the next front company Big Tobacco uses to market their useless and self-serving technology, it cannot be allowed to pass.