“This research exposes how transnational tobacco companies have been complicit in illicit trade in this region despite prosecution in several jurisdictions, and despite regional tobacco control initiatives and efforts by the World Health Organization,” says Lee, who is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair and principal investigator for the study.
“Our findings confirm the need to better understand the factors influencing how the illicit tobacco trade has changed over time in specific regional contexts, and amid tobacco industry globalization.”
The researchers’ study reveals how Tabesa became the largest cigarette manufacturer in Paraguay by expanding its markets worldwide, largely through illegally trading and exporting billions of low-priced brands while expanding legally to the U.S. to fend off smuggling allegations.
“Tabesa has become a major supplier of illicit tobacco products across Latin America and increasingly beyond,” says Gomis. “Although Brazil continues to account for the bulk of Tabesa's revenues, our findings suggest the company continues to grow, in large part thanks to its complicity in illicit trade beyond the immediate region—including Europe and Asia.”.
“Tabesa’s continuing expansion is part of the ongoing tobacco industry globalization that has seen a growing role for aspiring transnational tobacco companies in some countries,” says Iglesias. “While attention to the global business strategies of leading tobacco companies is critical to global tobacco control, understanding the role of other actors will improve implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its Protocol on Eliminating the illicit trade that came into force in October 2018.”
The WHO estimates that one in nine (11.6 per cent) cigarettes smoked worldwide is illicit.
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