According to research, the trade in illicit cigarettes is biggest in Kingston and St Andrew followed by St James, St Catherine and St Ann.
This information emerged on Monday, July 23, at a conference on illicit trade themed, ‘Eradicating the Illicit Trade’ in cigarettes in New Kingston.
The conference staged by Carreras, the cigarette maker and distributor, was told that the annual loss in revenue incurred by the Jamaican government is estimated to be close to $5 billion. The illegal cigarettes come into Jamaica without any duties or taxes being applied and sell on the market without the heavy taxes collected from Carreras brands.
As a share of the tobacco market island-wide, illegal cigarettes take up 27.6 percent of local consumption or more than one in every four cigarettes. In a survey conducted earlier this year by Carreras, in Kingston alone, illegal cigarettes accounted for over 56% of the market, with penetration from 12 illegal brands of cigarettes.
Cross Roads, downtown Kingston, Half-Way-Tree, Papine, Red Hills Road, Union Square and Waltham Park Road were the sections of the capital highly dominated by counterfeit brands such as Sunny, Vybz, D&J, Hatamens, Newport and Denim.
There was a similar trend in St. Ann, with illegal cigarettes holding a 29.6 percent share of the consumer base with roughly six illicit brands – while St. James registered another 28.5 percent market share and 11 circulating counterfeit brands.
“If you go into the marketplace, it’s very easy to pick up a carton. We’re of the opinion that the supply chain is very organized; it has to come [through] some ports, and this is the problem. It is there and it is growing,” Marcus Steele, managing director of Carreras said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey assured the JCF will remain steadfast to stem the flow of these illegal brands and eradicating the phenomenon altogether.
By Franklin McKnight