Illicit and Contraband Cigarette Seizures 2019 in Turkey by Hasan Alsancak

Illicit and Contraband Cigarette Seizures in Turkey by Hasan Alsancak


According to official figures, Turkish law enforcement and customs authorities seized 9 million packs of illicit and contraband cigarettes and 76,711 e-cigarettes in the first nine months of 2019. For the first time, Turkey brought contraband cigarette smuggling below 2%. However, it needs to be more optimistic, and international tobacco companies release contradicting seizure figures for 2019.


To Transparency International Turkey and Oxford Economics Combating Illicit Trade Country Spotlight: Turkey report, Turkey is the second country after Ukraine in illicit trade in Europe. To the information, 14% of cigarettes in Turkey are through illegal trade. The high tax policy on cigarettes and alcohol of the Turkish government was shown as the main reason for illicit trade in the country by the agency.   


To Prosecure Anti-illicit Trade (AIT) analysts, one of the primary reasons for the decrease in cigarette smuggling in Turkey is smokers preferring macaron and ‘loose tobacco’ instead of buying more expensive contrabands. One pack of a rolling cigarette is 5-6 TL, while the cheapest illicit and contraband cigarette price is about 8-10 TL in Turkey as of December 2019.  It is common to see tobacco shops in every city in Turkey selling loose tobacco products, even in luxurious locations.


The ‘macaron’ is a NEW TREND in Turkey and its neighboring countries, which are empty filter cigarette tubes ready to fill them with local cheap and good quality tobacco. Selling or buying macarons is legal in Turkey, but selling macarons after filing sticks with smoking in tobacco shops is illegal since it becomes a cigarette filter. Due to several reasons, there is a significant shift from illicit, contraband, and counterfeit cigarettes to rolled filtered illicit ones.



Turkish tobacco authority TAPDK licenses private companies to produce macarons in Turkey. Turkey already has around ten macaron factories, mainly located in Mersin and Adana.  


Illicit and contraband cigarettes in the country increased after Turkey stepped up anti-smoking measures, including a comprehensive indoor smoking ban introduced in 2009 and higher taxes for tobacco products.


As a result of the Turkish authorities’ anti-illicit cigarette operations, Turkey confiscated 15.7 million packages of contraband cigarettes in 2018. However, hitting 21% in 2014, the rate of illegal tobacco in the country gradually declined over the past few years and fell to 5.8% in 2018.


Turkish government invested TL 350 million (about 60M USD) in customs technologies against smuggling, from X-ray scanners to license plate identification systems, vehicle surveillance, and others accompanying more traditional methods like sniffer dogs and elite counter-narcotics police units.


The minister said tobacco products make up a majority of seizures in terms of the amount at customs. “By the end of September 2019, customs officials seized about 9 million packages of cigarettes not bearing the seal of TAPDK (the government’s tobacco and alcohol inspection board).


Please visit our Anti-illicit Cigarette and Illegal Tobacco Investigations website for our capabilities.

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