But France’s cigarette wars are a sign of deeper problems running through society. International criminal gangs are putting millions of euros into setting up secret illegal cigarette factories in western Europe and France is a key target market – it has among the highest taxes on cigarettes in the EU with the average price of a pack about €11. At the bottom of the chain, the young men selling a handful of packets on the street – many from Maghreb countries or Afghanistan – are often without legal papers and unable to find other work, vulnerable to gangs and making a tiny profit to survive. Those who buy the cigarettes say they cannot make ends meet so have no choice, despite risking a €135 fine if they are caught purchasing illegal tobacco.
More than one-third of cigarettes smoked in France in 2021 were bought illegally, according to KPMG research, funded by the tobacco industry.
Wonder how tobacco tax revenue is looking? NY State certainly managed to puch the price up so far that revenue fell.