Low taxes on tobacco products give green light to Ukraine’s smugglers

With cigarettes being so cheap in Ukraine, there’s a wide margin for smugglers to make a good profit. Moreover, the low cost of smoking takes a toll on the nation’s health, with high rates of smoking-related diseases and deaths.

Yet parliament is in no hurry to increase taxes on tobacco. In defiance of calls by anti-smoking activists to raise tobacco taxes to combat smuggling and improve the nation’s health, the Rada’s tax and customs committee has been protecting the interests of the tobacco industry, as well as blocking laws to restrict cigarette advertising.

Add to that the rapid fall in the value of the hryvnia, the currency having lost two-thirds of its value over the last two years, the illicit cross-border trade in cigarettes has continued apace. In 2016, even high-level diplomats have been caught illegally transporting cigarettes to Hungary.