About 110 million smuggled cigarettes seized by the authorities in 2022 Increase of illicit traffic

Deniza Cristian 27/01/2023 | 12:38

In 2022, on grounds of extensive efforts to stop illegal activities at the country’s borders, Romanian authorities seized more than 110 million contraband cigarettes. The black-market value of illegal cigarettes seized by the Romanian authorities last year amounts to over 73 million lei, according to data on www.stopcontrabanda.ro, the single real–time centralizer of the contraband cigarettes seizures on the Romanian territory.


According to the latest Novel Research study, the annual average of the illegal cigarettes trade in 2022 was 7.1% (versus 8.7% in 2021), the lowest average in the last 15 years, which consequently means higher revenues to the state budget. For comparison, the maximum level reached by the cigarettes black market in Romania in 2010 was 27% of the entire consumption. Moreover, the annual average of cigarette smuggling in Romania is now below the European average of 10%.  

Almost half of the entire seizures, at Romania`s Southern borders

In 2022, the highest volume of contraband cigarettes seized was recorded in three counties: Constanta (over 15.6 million cigarettes), Giurgiu (over 13.7 million cigarettes) and Valcea (nearly 11.2 million cigarettes). The seizures in these counties accounted for 44% of the total volume registered last year on Romanian territory, according to data centralized on StopContrabanda.ro. Illicit traffic also remained high at the Northern borders of the country, with about 42% of the total seizures made in these areas (38.5 million cigarettes).

Smuggling networks are diversifying their methods

In 2022, authorities identified new methods of illegally introducing counterfeit cigarettes into the country: last year in December, a person tried to introduce more than 8,000 packs of contraband cigarettes in Romania, using the false status of a diplomat. Significant volumes of contraband cigarettes were discovered in the fuel tank, wing, or floor of several cars attempting to cross the borders illegally.

Illicit trafficking also proliferated on air routes in 2022. Significant seizures were recorded on airports, with authorities detaining several people throughout the year, who were trying to transit the borders with significant volumes of cigarettes.

Also, according to the authorities` data, significant amounts of unprocessed tobacco were seized in 2022, the largest amount of tobacco being confiscated by ANAF in May: 10,260 kg of raw tobacco, imported from Indonesia. Last year, more than 50 tons of tobacco (raw, for nargileh or tobacco found in illegal factories) were discovered and confiscated. The amount is almost double compared to 2021, when around 30 tons of tobacco were seized.

Cigarette counterfeiting is becoming a worrying phenomenon

More than 21.8% of cigarettes found at consumers on the occasion of market research interviews were counterfeit, marking the highest level of counterfeit cigarettes on the illicit market in the last 10 years.

Of the total quantities captured by the authorities in 2022, more than 40% were identified as counterfeit, the most important such seizures being made in Contanta, Valcea and Giurgiu.

At the same time, the number of illegal cigarette factories discovered and deconstructed by the authorities increased to 5 in 2022, as compared to 2 discovered in 2021. This is also an indicator of smuggling networks` methods diversification.

Real time data on the evolution of cigarette seizures in Romania can be checked in real – time on www.stopcontrabanda.ro platform, a BAT initiative that aims to support the authorities by centralizing the seizures throughout the country, but also to inform consumers on the negative impact  of cigarette smuggling on society. The campaign is developed in partnership with the Romanian Police, the Romanian Border Police, the National Agency for Fiscal Administration (ANAF) and the Romanian Customs Authority. The “Stop Contrabanda” campaign was launched in the Spring of 2017 by BAT, to create a unique information point on cigarette smuggling activity.

About cigarettes smuggling in Romania

  • Romania has the highest level of cigarette smuggling in Eastern Europe.
  • Romania has 2,000 km of border with non-EU countries, where the price of tobacco can be up to three times lower.
  • Illegal cigarette trafficking annually prejudices the Romanian state by approximately 2 billion lei, which represents the equivalent of 667 km of modernized national road.
  • Each container of illegal cigarettes equals one million euros profit for smuggling networks. Interpol data show that illicit cigarette trafficking is a catalyst for trafficking in drugs, weapons, people and even terrorist activities.
  • In 2021, most seizures reported globally were of cigarettes – 50.5%.
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