7 September 2017

New research project into improvement of fight against illicit tobacco trade


By means of a multidisciplinary approach, prof. John Vervaele and Michele Simonato are going to examine how enforcement could be improved when it comes to combating the illicit tobacco trade within the EU, particularly where ‘cheap whites’ from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are concerned.

Prof. Vervaele and Mr Simonato have submitted a proposal to a grant programme of a tobacco company for the research project on 'The enforcement dimension of the fight against the illicit tobacco trade in Europe'. Out of 200 applications, an Expert Council decided to approve this proposal together with 31 other proposals. The project costs are approximately 360.000 euro. It will start in February 2018 and last for two years. Look for the full project proposal (pdf).

Three main research questions will be addressed: How do national authorities enforce prohibition of illicit tobacco trade, how can the EU develop new policies improving the enforcement against illicit tobacco trade, and how can the EU influence the conduct of states and private actors outside of EU borders? In order to answer these questions, the project will provide a legal and empirical comparison between EU member states, between the EU and the US approach, and between various EU policy areas.

According to prof. Vervaele the study is of great social importance. “There is broad agreement, including amongst organizations like the WHO, that control of illicit trade benefits tobacco control and public health and result in broader benefits for governments”, said prof. Vervaele. “The results of the proposed study can help to eliminate and reduce the issue of illicit tobacco trade and thereby improve public health.”

“The fact that the project will be paid for by the tobacco industry, has been thoroughly discussed within the university”, said prof. Vervaele. “Cigarettes are unhealthy. This is beyond doubt. Nonetheless, the tobacco industry itself is not illegal. The illicit tobacco trade is, however. We are conducting this study because of its societal importance in terms of public health and benefits for governments. It is clear that the tobacco industry also has its own interests, and that the industry will try to look after them. It is important that the study be completely independent and that everyone will be able to see the results. That is how it will be. Parties of note who will be using the results of the study include policymakers (EU and national), customs services, police, the Public Prosecution Service and the judiciary.”

Communications Consultant