Philip Morris International (PMI) has warned that cigarette smugglers and counterfeiters are expanding the platforms they use to generate illicit sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “Covid-19 has accelerated the trend of illicit markets moving toward e-commerce and cyberspace, while also expanding the range of goods being sold online and on the dark web. This may redefine the route of illicit goods to market.” He said the company was addressing this growing threat by liaising with online platforms and scaling up online monitoring efforts. Throughout 2020, he said PMI actively collaborated with ecommerce partners “to effectively remove illicit products listed on online marketplaces.” The spokesperson added that it was “more important than ever for public and private bodies, law enforcement agencies, brand owners and online platforms to come together and exchange expertise and knowledge around our common goal: winning the fight against illicit trade”.

The company has been focusing on information sharing with law enforcement agencies; providing technical training to law enforcement, helping them recognise a counterfeit product; and working with private and public actors to grow public awareness about “the far-reaching consequences that illicit trade has on consumers, legitimate businesses and governments”.