Malta has seen a steady decline in the illicit cigarette trade since 2016, an annual report on the illegal market in the EU, UK, Norway and Switzerland has found. 

The KPMG report found that while fewer cigarettes are being smoked overall in those markets, the black market for them has steadily grown over the past years, rising from 0.5% of all cigarettes sold to around 7.8%, reaching 34.2 billion illicit cigarettes.

But not so in Malta, where the illicit market has been on a steady and marked decline since 2016.

The illicit market for cigarettes stood at 17.2% in 2016 (equivalent to 0.09 billion illegal cigarettes) in 2016 but had declined to 6.4% (equivalent to 0.03 billion illegal cigarettes) by 2020.

This reduction is attributed to effective customs controls and tax stability. The estimated total tax revenue lost for Malta in 2020 was €6 million.

Business Royals is the cigarette brand that remains the main driver of the illicit trade in Malta.

The increase of illicit cigarettes in surveyed markets - which consist of contraband, counterfeit, and illicit whites - was driven by an unprecedented 87% surge in counterfeit consumption. The tax loss for governments in the EU27 now amounts to approximately €8.5 billion.

France is the European country with the highest illicit cigarette trade incidence - 23.1% of the market share, followed by Greece with 22.4%.

France registered an unprecedented 609% increase in counterfeit cigarette consumption, reaching 6 billion in fake cigarettes consumed.

In Greece, the state lost €551 million due to the illicit cigarette trade in 2020.

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