June 21. 2024. 6:32

The Daily

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Cigarette smuggling levels in Bulgaria reach record low

Bulgaria recorded a record low level of 1.5% illegal cigarettes being distributed in the country at the end of 2022, data from Tuesday from the Initiative against Illegal Trade, in which the major distributors of tobacco products in the country participate, show.

Bulgaria has the largest share of everyday smokers in the EU – nearly 28% of the population, the latest Eurostat data shows. At the same time, it loses €2.2 billion a year or 3% of its GDP as a result of smoking-related diseases.

In the first quarter of 2022, illegally sold cigarettes in Bulgaria had a share of 2.6%, though this increased in the following two quarters by 2.8% and 3.1% respectively, before falling sharply at the end of the year.

In March, the Bulgarian police seized illegal cigarettes worth €750,000 – a significant amount for the Bulgarian market. In 2022, police found nine times more illegal cigarettes compared to 2021, and last year, illegal cigarette factories were found and closed in Botevgrad and Varna.

Last year, Bulgaria was the EU country with the smallest illegal market among all surveyed EU states, according to the data of the Initiative for Illegal Trade. The organisers of the study did not specify which EU country has the largest illegal market.

In total, €1.5 billion from excise taxes on cigarettes came into the state budget, which is a 50% share, according to the Bulgarian customs agency, Cigarettes, whose packages are marked for duty-free trade, have the largest share among illegal products on the Bulgarian market, with fakes copying well-known international brands coming in second.

In 2022, customs authorities detained, seized and secured as evidence more than 41.5 million short contraband cigarettes, which is 33% more than in 2021. The amount of cigarettes seized at the internal borders with the EU prevails, followed by those at the external borders of the EU (39.44%), commented Lachezar Krastev, the Customs Agency’s Deputy Director.