Smokers turn to illegal tobacco

THE volume of illegal tobacco on the streets of the Sunshine Coast has grown at an alarming rate, according to the results of a new survey.

Conducted by KPMG UK, the survey looked at the number of discarded illegal cigarette packets on the Coast.

A sample of 300 packs last year found 6.7% were illegal - up from 0.5% in 2012.

The report showed Australia's total consumption of illegal cigarettes had climbed to its highest rate.

British American Tobacco Australia spokesperson Scott McIntyre said the country's total black market was continuing to boom, with a 20% rise in illegal tobacco since plain packs had been on shelves.

"If the criminal gangs who illegally imported 2.45 million kilograms of illegal tobacco into the country last year had paid the tobacco excise they should have to the Government, then we would have around $1.1 billion extra in the budget," he said.

"Due to high excise rates Australia is a very lucrative target for illegal tobacco smugglers and it's made more attractive as there's no real enforcement at the retail level to stop them once they hit the streets.

"Around 70% of the price of a legal cigarette pack sale goes to the Government in taxes. Criminal gangs obviously don't pay tax, making smuggling illegal cigarettes in from Asia and the Middle East so profitable.

"It's why dodgy retailers sell illegal cigarettes for around half the price of legal cigarettes."

Topics:  organised crime smoking tax tobacco

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