How contraband cigarettes came to flourish in the heart of europe

BERLIN One of the competitors of the global cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco is hanging out near a discount mart on Landsberger Allee. His clothing is torn. He&#146 s small and wiry his eyes are mistrustful. He holds a plastic bag. &#147 There&#146 s one of our friends, right there,&#148 says Bernd, spotting the Vietnamese man through the car window. As he gets out of the car and heads towards him, the man hurriedly moves away and disappears around the corner, mobile phone clamped to his ear. &#147 Now the other guys know we&#145 re here,&#148 Bernd says, lighting a cigarette.

Bernd&#146 s describes himself as a bull. Bernd isn&#145 t his real name. And he&#146 s not a cop. At least not any more. He used to work for the German Federal Criminal Police. There, he learned his self confident walk and his way of staring right through a person. He also picked up a lot of knowledge about organized crime. For this reason, Reemtsma, the German subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco, the fourth largest tobacco company in the world, was happy to hire him as head of security. Like every multinational cigarette maker, Reemtsma needs all the help it can get to keep its biggest competitors in check and its biggest competitor isn&#146 t the Marlboro man. It&#146 s the black market man on the street corner.

In 2010, 22 billion untaxed cigarettes were smoked in Germany, according to the Deutscher Zigarettenverband (DZV), a German tobacco lobby. Nobody doubts the number, and because of it, the state lost more than 4 billion euros in tax revenue last year, and profits for companies like Reemtsma and Philip Morris (which owns Marlboro) were heavily impacted.

Vietnamese run racket

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Vietnamese have been the main sellers of contraband smokes, as it’s become an established form of criminality. Much like forced prostitution and drug dealing, this racket is extremely difficult to crush, despite the best efforts of customs officials and the millions invested by the tobacco industry.

According to DZV estimates, taxes on more than 40% of all cigarettes smoked in Berlin are unpaid. That figure rises to 60% near the border with Poland. In Bavaria, nearly every third cigarette is smuggled, while in northern Germany it&#146 s more than one in 10. Customs agents say those estimates are conservative.

Bernd, the former police officer, has organized a little tour of Berlin for Ole Peschl, Reemtsma&#146 s Berlin sales manager, so he can check out the company&#146 s toughest competition for himself. One of Peschl&#146 s customers has a tobacco store on Anton Saefkow Platz in the Lichtenberg quarter. &#147 Do you want to see where they stash their supplies?&#148 the woman behind the counter asks. She waves her hand in the direction of a supermarket. &#147 Behind their sign. I see the sellers reaching behind it all day long.&#148 Asked if she&#145 d called the police, she replied &#147 And what, make my life even more complicated?&#148

In front of the market stands a Vietnamese man, plastic bag in hand. He has only five cartons in the bag not enough to count if the police take him in. Sellers keep what they have on them at any one time under the limit, and find a place nearby to stash supplies. Bernd goes up to the man, who gives him a suspicious look he&#146 s apparently been kept in the loop by the guy who was phoning from Landsberger Allee. But by this time, the sellers seem to have decided that the small Reemtsma group didn&#146 t represent a threat. &#147 What have you got,&#148 Bernd asks. The man reaches into the bag and takes out a carton of Jin Lings. &#147 Good cigarettes,&#148 he says.

Bernd buys a pack for 2.20 euros. He takes a cigarette out, crumbles the tobacco up between his fingers and examines it. &#147 The white stuff, that&#146 s not tobacco,&#148 he says. &#147 But at least there aren&#146 t any shredded CDs or mouse droppings.&#148 He looks at the package it hasn&#146 t been put together straight, and in lousy English claims that Jin Ling is produced under license from Philip Morris which of course is not true. These are fakes of a brand that itself has not been approved for sale in Germany.

And yet, Jin Ling is now the most smoked cigarette in Germany. The box is reminiscent of the old Camel package, except that instead of a camel there&#146 s a ram. Jin Lings are made in three factories in Kaliningrad (Russia), Moldavia, and the Ukraine. In Russia, however, hardly anyone has ever heard of them they are mainly made to be smuggled into Western Europe. It&#146 s said that the factory price for a carton of 10 packs is 2 euros. Here, the seller is asking 22 euros a profit margin of 1,100% less the cost of smuggling. &#147 More lucrative than hashish,&#148 Bernd says.

So it&#146 s no wonder that for that kind of money, smuggling is big business. According to customs officials, the way the business is organized is that Eastern Europeans manufacture, purchase and smuggle the merchandise. In Germany, Vietnamese gangs take over. Sales areas are divided up among gang members and they no longer sell fake Marlboros the way they did 15 years ago. Instead, they hawk Jin Lings, Classics, or packs with Cyrillic writing on them. That way, nobody gets nabbed for trademark violation.

The Vietnamese street hawkers aren&#146 t getting rich. Police and customs officials are assuming that most of them have been trafficked, and that they&#146 re paying down what they owe for their passage to Europe. In some places, like the Eastgate mall, there are three of them in a row, barely 100 meters apart.

Bernd goes up to another man and asks what he has in his bag. Jin Lings, of course, and another brand called Classic. &#147 Don&#146 t you have some of these,&#148 Bernd asks, pointing to the pack the man has in his shirt pocket. &#147 No, no, mine,&#148 says the Vietnamese, laughing. It&#146 s a legal pack of John Player Specials.

Read the original article in German

Photo Onnola

European cigarettes — page 2 — cigarette forum & smokers community

#11 (permalink) 03 02 2013, 07 47 AM dajo Senior Member Join Date Dec 2012 Location United States Posts 200 Rep Power 23


Siberian man, you really know much more than I do! I already smoked almost all of 5 cartons I average almost 4 packs a day. Few packs left from the last one but I threw away the wrapping so cannot check where they were made. I always thought european ones come from the same factory…
The filter in these are much softer and feels like a single cigarette is not filled with tobacco so firmly / solid as the US ones… And as I said they burn much faster. #12 (permalink) 03 02 2013, 09 05 AM Russian Smoker Junior Member Join Date Jun 2012 Location Russian Federation Posts 21 Rep Power 0


I think at any place in the world local brands, especially unfiltered, are better than international that manufactured in these countries, except the US. Most of famous international cigarette brands were originally introduced in the USA (Marlboro, Camel, Parliament etc.), so, American Marlboros and Camels are much better than European despite FSC.
You can look for European non filters Roth Handle, Reval (Germany), Woodbine, Park Drive, Senior Service (the UK), Gitanes and Gauloises (France). In my opinion, these cigs are much tastier and pleasanter than European made international brands. #13 (permalink) 03 02 2013, 09 47 AM Siberian Man Junior Member Join Date Feb 2013 Location Russian Federation Posts 13 Rep Power 0


Originally Posted by dajo you really know much more than I do! Used to smoke these for some years.
Originally Posted by dajo Few packs left from the last one but I threw away the wrapping Check the barcode from your last pack, just first two three digits.
Originally Posted by dajo The filter in these are much softer and feels like a single cigarette is not filled with tobacco so firmly / solid as the US ones… And as I said they burn much faster. That’s it. These infernal transnational companies strive to earn extra cash, but ruin quality product. Eastern European factories don’t use FSC paper, but instead of it fill cigs with pieces of some inflammable (probably saltpeter), which cause little flashes from time to time, thus speeding the burning. W/European also do this trick with some brands for instance, Swiss made More 120 is made with using this «technology». Nothing personal, just business… #14 (permalink) 03 02 2013, 01 38 PM Craven A Players Senior Member Join Date Jan 2013 Location SF Bay, USA Posts 193 Rep Power 22 Country Codes


Originally Posted by Siberian Man I use the site which shows origin immediately, but it’s in Russian. So, try decode manually first three digits is the country code. Here are the links
1. url EAN 13 country codes Barcode software OCX ActiveX ActiveBarcode /url
2. url EAN 13 SYMBOLOGY /url My Gitanes are made in France. Thanks S Man. #15 (permalink) 03 02 2013, 01 50 PM Craven A Players Senior Member Join Date Jan 2013 Location SF Bay, USA Posts 193 Rep Power 22 Euro Cigs


Originally Posted by Russian Smoker I think at any place in the world local brands, especially unfiltered, are better than international that manufactured in these countries, except the US. Most of famous international cigarette brands were originally introduced in the USA (Marlboro, Camel, Parliament etc.), so, American Marlboros and Camels are much better than European despite FSC.
You can look for European non filters Roth Handle, Reval (Germany), Woodbine, Park Drive, Senior Service (the UK), Gitanes and Gauloises (France). In my opinion, these cigs are much tastier and pleasanter than European made international brands. The only brands you mentioned available here are Gauloises & Gitanes. The non filter versions of these, IMHO, are like gargling with razor blades! Thanks R S.
Always good to know more about the cigs we can still obtain in the U.S. #16 (permalink) 03 03 2013, 01 02 AM dajo Senior Member Join Date Dec 2012 Location United States Posts 200 Rep Power 23


Originally Posted by Siberian Man I use the site which shows origin immediately, but it’s in Russian. So, try decode manually first three digits is the country code. Here are the links
1. url EAN 13 country codes Barcode software OCX ActiveX ActiveBarcode /url
2. url EAN 13 SYMBOLOGY /url Thanks, I checked they were made in Spain. #17 (permalink) 03 03 2013, 01 12 AM dajo Senior Member Join Date Dec 2012 Location United States Posts 200 Rep Power 23


Originally Posted by Russian Smoker I think at any place in the world local brands, especially unfiltered, are better than international that manufactured in these countries, except the US. Most of famous international cigarette brands were originally introduced in the USA (Marlboro, Camel, Parliament etc.), so, American Marlboros and Camels are much better than European despite FSC.
You can look for European non filters Roth Handle, Reval (Germany), Woodbine, Park Drive, Senior Service (the UK), Gitanes and Gauloises (France). In my opinion, these cigs are much tastier and pleasanter than European made international brands. Yes, non filter cigarettes are the best. I like them a lot! I usually smoke at least a pack of Camel NF’s or Lucky strikes. I would like to smoke more than one pack but they tend to hurt my lungs and irritate my throat if I go over one pack. Great cigarettes anyway! Great for evening smokes, after over 3 packs of reds during the day I got heavy feeling on my lungs and tight chest, non filters go down strongly and they give really nice nic rush. 100% relaxation #18 (permalink) 03 03 2013, 04 00 AM Siberian Man Junior Member Join Date Feb 2013 Location Russian Federation Posts 13 Rep Power 0


Originally Posted by Craven A Players My Gitanes are made in France. Thanks S Man. Originally Posted by dajo Thanks, I checked they were made in Spain. You are welcome. Made in France/Spain means they must be good quality. #19 (permalink) 03 03 2013, 04 29 AM dajo Senior Member Join Date Dec 2012 Location United States Posts 200 Rep Power 23


Originally Posted by Siberian Man You are welcome. Made in France/Spain means they must be good quality. Yes they were different but OK, but I prefer US Marlboros #20 (permalink) 03 12 2013, 07 05 AM Benjamin Peter Junior Member Join Date Mar 2013 Posts 2 Rep Power 0 Cigs from the EU


I have been buying my cigarettes from They are based in Spain, not one of their Tax Free islands and have never really noticed a difference in the taste. I have ordered Marlboro Red for a friend of mine and they were really pleased with the cigs. If you are in the UK they may be worth trying. Hell of a lot cheaper than the shops here!


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