Spanish smokers, squeezed by higher taxes and a deepening recession, are increasingly relying on smugglers to feed their habit.
Illegal imports now account for 7 percent to 8 percent of Spanish cigarette sales, compared with almost nothing a year ago, according to the country’s tobacconists association. In southern provinces such as Cadiz, Seville and Malaga, the proportion is 20 percent.
“Smuggling and fake tobacco, which had been eradicated since 1993, came back strongly last year,” said Jaime Gil- Robles, corporate affairs director at Altadis, the Spanish unit of Imperial Tobacco Group Plc.
Smuggling, encouraged by a December 2010 increase in tobacco taxes and a ban on smoking in public places, has eroded both government coffers and company revenues. Spain, which has the European Union’s highest jobless rate, collected 14 percent less tobacco taxes in 2011 than a forecast of 9.05 billion euros ($12 billion), excluding value-added tax, according to Altadis.