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February 5, 2019

Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, in response to “Confronting Illicit Tobacco Trade,” a new report from World Bank Group

(New York, USA) — The following is a statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, in response to “Confronting Illicit Trade in Tobacco: A Global Review of Country Experiences,” a new report from World Bank Group.

“Tobacco kills more than 7 million people and costs the global economy nearly two trillion dollars each year. The evidence is clear: policies that reduce the affordability of tobacco are most effective in reducing use and discouraging young people from starting to use tobacco. For too long the tobacco industry has used claims about illicit trade to mislead the public and deter governments from implementing a range of tobacco control policies that can save lives, particularly high tobacco taxes and prices. The World Bank Group’s new report is a welcome rebuttal of the industry’s claims, proving that governments in very different countries are equally able to implement practical steps to reduce illicit trade while increasing tobacco taxes, strengthening economies and public health.

“We hope “Confronting Illicit Trade in Tobacco” emboldens governments across the globe to advance global efforts to reduce illicit trade that harms health, equity, governance and government revenues.”

Evidence presented in the report shows that illicit trade is higher in countries with low tobacco taxes and prices than in countries with high tobacco taxes and prices – undermining data and claims presented by the tobacco industry. The authors conclude that non-price factors such as corruption, weak regulatory frameworks, and the presence of informal distribution networks appear to be more important factors in determining the extent of illicit trade. The report also highlights the tobacco industry’s track record of involvement in tobacco smuggling, reinforcing the need for supply chain controls and track and trace systems that are independent of the tobacco industry.

Additional background:

The World Bank Group launched Confronting Illicit Trade in Tobacco: A Global Review of Country Experiences at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2019 in Thailand, on Feb. 1, 2019. The report sets out evidence from more than 30 countries, confirming that any country can reduce illicit trade and that high tobacco taxes do not increase cigarette smuggling. World Bank re-affirms that it is critical to address illicit trade in the context of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy, to support public health and public finances. The report includes case studies from Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the EU, Georgia, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, OECS and Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa and Eswatini, and Uruguay.

About Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control:

Vital Strategies works globally and in more than 40 countries to support the adoption of proven policies to reduce tobacco use, including life-saving, public health “best buys” like comprehensive smokefree laws and high tobacco taxes. Our evidence-based public education campaigns – designed to encourage quitting, delay initiation, support policy goals like compliance with smoke-free laws, and over the long term, reduce the acceptability of smoking and change attitudes about the tobacco industry – have been seen by more than 2 billion people. We are a partner in Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), a tobacco industry watchdog; we partner with American Cancer Society to produce The Tobacco Atlas, (sixth ed.) the most comprehensive report on the evolving global tobacco epidemic; and support production of WHO’s MPOWER reports. Vital Strategies is a main partner in the $1 billion Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

For more information on Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit:

Media Contact:

Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies:; +44.(0)7889.081.170

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