• A study commissioned by the tobacco industry shows the growing share of cigarette purchases on the parallel market.

  • Nearly one in three cigarettes would be purchased outside the network of tobacconists, especially abroad.

  • Customs confirms an overall increase in smuggling and counterfeiting trends.

Twice a year, French tobacco manufacturers issue press releases denouncing the growing proportion of cigarette purchases abroad or on the contraband market.

The latest, published by Seita on September 20, affirms “that one in three cigarettes consumed in France does not come from the network of tobacconists”.

A figure supported by a study entitled “Empty pack survey”, of which it is relatively complicated to obtain a copy.

20 Minutes

attempted to verify this allegation.

To understand this study, you must first know that it was the tobacco industry who initiated it.

The most recent, whose report was submitted last June, was carried out in 2021 by KPMG on behalf of Philip Morris Products SA and is entitled "Illicit consumption of cigarettes in the EU, the United Kingdom, Norway and in Switzerland.

And to read its content,

20 Minutes

had to manage, the Seita having refused to send us the report, explaining that “the Empty Pack survey study is an internal document and is not intended to be distributed”.

A study by Public Health France goes in this direction

To sum up, Empty pack survey consists in collecting packets of cigarettes in garbage cans to determine their origin.

In France, for example, 46,000 packages were collected in 2021 in 126 cities, including more than 5,000 in Paris alone.

It shows that the influx of cigarettes from Spain increased by 106.45% in 2021 and by 25% from Belgium.

The study also states that 32.7% of cigarettes consumed in France came from the parallel market, including 13.10% counterfeit and 18.20% from cross-border purchases.

These figures are slightly higher than those published in a survey of places of purchase of tobacco, commissioned by Public Health France, in 2018. We learn that 77.8% of cigarette smokers declared that they had bought their tobacco in France and 16.4% in a neighboring country.

However, this is not inconsistent: “In 2017-2018, we were at two or three tonnes of tobacco seized per year to increase to more than 20 tonnes between 2019 and 2021. And since the beginning of 2022, the trend has largely been to the increase", explains Franck Lacroix, regional director of customs in Lille.

And when customs speak of seizures, this concerns both large-scale trafficking of several tons and contraband on a smaller scale.

"We clearly see the appearance and increase of a phenomenon of local smuggling by people who fill the trunk of a car or a small van", continues the customs officer.

Moreover, it is enough to ask the question to the smokers crossed in the streets of Lille to wonder if the figures of the tobacco companies are not ultimately underestimated.

Of a dozen people interviewed by

20 Minutes

, only one claimed to buy its tobacco only in France.

All the others were supplied in Belgium during more or less regular trips.

Two even admitted making "group purchases" for friends or family when it is totally illegal.

Illegal, and bad for your health.


Val-d'Oise: A cigarette trafficking network dismantled, six people sentenced


Montpellier: Faced with the outbreak of tobacco trafficking, the State is going all out

  • Economy

  • Tobacco

  • Smuggling

  • Cigarette

  • Customs

  • Hauts-de-France

  • Traffic