british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2011 - Viewpoint from an employee in Australia

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Sustainability Report 2011
The upcoming plain packaging legislation worries me. I’m convinced we’re going to see an increase in illicit trade. Barry Wilson, Area Anti-illicit Trade, Excise & Security Manager British American Tobacco Australia

Being in an anti-illicit trade role at British American Tobacco Australia is challenging and very varied. I get to work with colleagues in many parts of the business – regulation, marketing, legal, supply chain and so on – and to engage with external stakeholders on the issue. It’s also a big responsibility when you think about the scale and the impacts of the illegal tobacco trade in Australia.

Recently, we’ve been working on some pretty interesting initiatives. One of them is a tool that maps volumes of illicit tobacco across Australian electorates. And there’s a website – Opens in new window – that we’ve designed to share that information with the industry and enforcement authorities, so that together we can tackle the rapid growth of illegal tobacco in Australia.

Anyone can access the website, so we’re hoping that it’ll get people talking locally – consumers and local politicians. The politicians are particularly important as they can get things moving to address the issue in their own backyards, as well as putting pressure on the Government to respond to this serious issue.

Another part of my role involves working with enforcement bodies, from customs and border protection to crime task forces. This grass roots engagement is crucial for ensuring that illegal tobacco doesn’t get overlooked when limited government resources are allocated. One of our big successes in this area was a Tobacco Crime Forum, organised by the company and including New South Wales police, customs, security experts and the tobacco industry. It looked in some depth at how to address the escalation in tobacco-related crime, ranging from simple theft to illegal trade.

The upcoming plain packaging legislation worries me. I’m convinced we’re going to see an increase in illicit trade. The latest research shows that the illegal trade is already moving away from loose tobacco towards smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes. In fact, the volumes of these doubled between October 2010 and April 2011. It’s highly likely that illegal traders will set themselves up to take advantage of plain packaging.

We won’t make it easy for them though! We’ll be attacking illicit trade from all sides: doing our best to ensure retailers are not selling illegal tobacco; working with enforcement agencies to help increase seizures and arrests; measuring the problem and providing intelligence to the Government; and raising awareness within the industry and among the wider public of how damaging the illegal tobacco trade really is.

Barry Wilson, Area Anti-illicit Trade, Excise & Security Manager, British American Tobacco Australia


A Deloitte report in 2011 found that the illegal tobacco trade in Australia increased from the equivalent of 12.3% of legal tobacco consumption in 2009 to 15.9% in 2010. This represents an annual loss in tax revenue of approximately A$1.1 billion (£708 million) for the Australian Government.

A recent report by the Australian Crime Commission into organised crime outlines the involvement of organised crime in the illegal trade of tobacco and states that increases in excise tax are likely to attract further organised crime groups to the illicit tobacco market.
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