The tobacco giant announced a brand new campaign to counter the black market trade of cigarettes and counterfeit tobacco products.

NEW YORK CITY — Tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) announced on June 8 that the company had launched a brand new public education initiative called the United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) combat black market trade.

“Illegal trade is a major problem that fuels serious organized criminal networks and damages our economy,” said Martin King, the chief executive officer of PMI America.

“No matter the commodity, these criminals will seize any opportunity to exploit markets and communities to bolster their nefarious activities. PMI is pleased to be joined by so many cross-sector partners who are leading the fight against illegal trade and the black-market criminals profiting at the expense of Americans’ security,” King said.

The PMI coalition of national and state private and public sector partners, through the campaign, will provide local officials, law enforcement, and thought leaders with information and training programs to help tackle illegal trade and raise awareness.

According to a press statement from PMI, the campaign will run throughout 2021 in eight states facing critical illegal trade issues. These states include Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. USA-IT also includes the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, attached to the Department of Homeland Security and its U.S. Immigration and Customs Engagement (ICE) component.

PMI and the National IPR Coordination Center have previously collaborated on various campaigns countering the illicit trade of cigarettes, tobacco, and countless other products and services.

“Counterfeit and smuggled goods pose serious threats in many states. The situation has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with criminals seizing opportunities to traffic all types of counterfeit and illegal products, including highly demanded personal protective equipment (PPE),” states the press release. “Since January 2020, online counterfeited goods have jumped nearly 40 percent.”

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Michael McGrady is a columnist for Vaping Post's English edition. He is a critically acclaimed journalist with awards and recognition from across the industry. He was a finalist for ECigClick's annual vape awards in 2019 and 2020, a KAC Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Fellow in 2019, among other honours. He is also the host of Vaping Weekly, the Post's podcast. All articles express his own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the Editor's view.