Characterization of cigarrete smuggling distribution in Colombia
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Fundación Anaás, Colombia
Diversidad Rural, Colombia
CREER-IHRB Centro Regional de Empresas y Emprendimientos Responsables, Colombia
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A137
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The challenges associated with a historical pattern of interaction between the State and the territory, predominance of informal cigarette sales, corruption and well-organized mafias, create favorable conditions for illicit trade of cigarettes in Colombia. Guajira encompasses all this elements and it is the most traditional smuggling hub. The study also includes the cities of Cúcuta (close to the Venezuelan border with 23% penetration of illicit cigarettes), and Bogotá (with the largest number of smokers) This study identifies actors in the illicit trade distribution chain (retail and wholesale), their behaviour, incentives and interactions.

Passive participant research (e.g. buying cigarettes), semi-structured interviews, and focus groups. Fieldwork performed between July - November 2017. Selected actors include authorities, smugglers, travelers in border areas, street vendors and owners of small businesses.

Preliminary findings obtained from interviews reveal three significative changes in Guajira: military and police forces have rearranged priorities in the territory as a result of the dynamics of the peace process; communities acknowledge the need of State action to preserve order, but smuggling continues to be the exception (e.g. reports of violent incidents between communities and police after seizure operatives); traditional leaders' profile is undergoing transformations. Economic slowdown, and dererioriating environmental conditions are mentioned as driving forces for a renewed presence of smuggling activity in the region. Findings reveal presence of minors in smuggling activities. In Bogotá street vendors (the main distribution channel for cigarettes) after the tax increase are more reluctant to sell full packs.

Changes along the distribution chain are bringing new risks and opportunities for an effective control of illicit trade flows. It is necessary to explore interventions that address institutional weaknesses, and the circumstances of vulnerable actors to develop sustainable policies to eliminate illicit trade in Colombia.