While the Government of Guyana is working to implement stricter measures against the use of tobacco products, stakeholders are trying to have the illicit trade of the substance stamped out.
The British American Tobacco Company (BAT) on Thursday hosted a Regional Conference focusing on the illicit trade of Tobacco. The event brought together key customs, revenue and law enforcement officials to address the issue which is costing businesses.
The illicit trade described as “big business” by British American Tobacco, Caribbean Arm manager, Christopher Brown, is one of the major challenges faced by the Caribbean. It has also been receiving attention from UK, US and other industrialised countries. According to Brown, the trade has “tremendous backing” from major transnational organised crime enterprise, and therefore requires serious and focused collaboration to disrupt the supply chain.
Brown said, “this illicit trade in cigarettes is not only robbing our Government of much-needed revenues, but increasingly it represents a threat to the individual and the collective National Security of the countries and indeed the overall Region.”
“The truth is, it is now long established that this illicit trade is very organised, transnational in nature, and has the strength to undermine and corrupt many other protection and revenue securing processes,” he added.
At the Conference, one of the topics covered is that of Modern trends of the illicit traders.
Head of External Affairs at British American Tobacco, Cesar Agurcia noted that the profits from the illegal trade go towards funding criminal activities. He outlined that 75% of the revenues coming from the tobacco industry across the region comes from illegal trade.
DEMTOCO at the end of 2016 announced a $2.8B profit, which represents a marginal decline of 2.3% from 2015. The company noted that the widely available smuggled brands of cigarettes are hurting the company.
The event was hosted at the Marriott Hotel in collaboration with DEMTOCO hosted Demerara Tobacco Company and Crime Stoppers International.
The Government of Guyana recently tabled in the National Assembly, the Tobacco Control Bill which seeks to will provide for the adoption and implementation of tobacco control policies.
Piloted by the Ministry of Health, it will also serve as the legal regulator for administration, inspection and enforcement while providing legislative protection from exposure to second-hand smoke.