Kingsley Wheaton, British American Tobacco’s Group Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, has stated that if governments, the world over, do not ensure that they maintain a legal tobacco industry, people will patronise black market sources for cigarettes to smoke and deny governments of taxes.

In a release issued recently following this year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ celebration, Mr Wheaton said, “Instead of buying legal taxed cigarettes made by legitimate tobacco companies and sold by reputable retailers, people will turn to black market sources to get what they want.”

According to him, the tobacco industry is highly regulated, sells a legal product and has a legitimate business.

“We conduct our business in a professional and responsible way abiding by the laws in all the countries we operate in, often going above and beyond our legal obligations.

“Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the sophisticated network of criminals ready and waiting to step-in and take over if the legitimate tobacco industry didn’t exist.”

The global black market for tobacco accounted for 660 billion (Framework Convention Alliance) cigarette sales in 2012, making it roughly equivalent in volume to the world’s third largest multinational tobacco company.

It is not a victimless crime. Illegal tobacco is sold by well-organised criminal gangs, some of whom have recognised links to terrorism.

Mr Wheaton commented: “These people don’t abide by the law or follow government regulation, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t care what’s in their products and they happily sell to minors.

“If we didn’t exist to supply tobacco products legally, traffickers would fill the vacuum and this cannot be the outcome society wants.”

BAT makes a long-term commitment to sustainability, strives to bring reduced harm products to market, continues to fight the illegal tobacco trade, generates excise revenue and provides employment and enhanced livelihoods to hundreds of thousands of employees and suppliers. However, he said a world with no legitimate tobacco industry would see an end to significant investment in research and development of reduced-risk tobacco products.

In 2012 British American Tobacco alone invested £171 million in our research and development activities – part of our responsibility to working towards reducing the health risks associated with our products.

Each year, the tobacco industry generates $200 billion in tax, more than seven times the profit of the global industry.