Israel is taking a strong stance on smugglers, and this is good for our economy. If you’re a law-abiding citizen, you purchase tobacco products and pay your taxes on them. But, there’s an entirely different world where saving a few shekels here or there, especially in the cigarette and tobacco industry, has harmed the economy.
Smugglers in the West Bank are a prime example.
These smugglers have catered to citizens that want to buy tobacco and cigarettes. The IDF, for example, has made an effort to snuff out smoking with a ban across 56 bases in the country. Bans have led many smokers to seek other means of getting their nicotine fix.
Smoking poses too much of a risk to the health of members of the IDF. Each year, there are 2.5 million tobacco and cigarette products sold on IDF bases. Stringent measures have been put in place to stop people from smoking, but smugglers are bridging the gap, offering the same products for cheaper and without taxes being collected.
Israel’s Medical Association and the Israel Cancer Association have made strict recommendations for these products. Government agencies have done the same with other harmful products.
But, when money is involved, all products are being smuggled or recreated. There are a wide range of products available, and consumers often don’t realize their purchase is a replica.
Taxes may be cheaper, products may be cheaper, but money is also kept out of the government which helps fund the programs Israelis rely on.
Banning products can be a danger, too. As with tobacco products, smugglers will see a clear opportunity to bring goods into the country. Goods are often transported among other goods in an attempt to be concealed.
Gaza Strip or the West Bank are key areas where illicit goods come through with the ISA, Tax Authority and Israel Police intercepting goods regularly.
The United States and United Kingdom suffer from the same issue. Flea markets are prime spots for people to sell Hermes Constance products, high-priced clothing and even jewelry that is not genuine.
Some shops offer the best Hermes replicas where the consumer never becomes aware that they’re not purchasing a “real” product.
“Counterfeit Street,” in the UK has caused legitimate businesses to struggle, as Louis Vuitton bags sell for £23 and billions of pounds are exchanged for fake goods. Retailers are known for being able to locate and offer items to consumers in rapid speed.
Dozens of escape routes exist on the street and within shops, and despite raids, the market is still thriving.
An issue with the industry, whether in the UK or Israel, is that it helps fund slavery. Many of the workers that use finishing machines to turn blank shirts into brand names are undocumented immigrants or underage.
Criminal organizations often run the shops, with consumers funding these illegal operations.
Higher taxes on goods are forcing them into the hands of criminals, but punishing those caught finishing many of the counterfeit goods is also an issue. The operators of these criminal operations often force their workers into modern day slavery, and even those that are arrested, they’re mostly workers and not the “brains” behind the operations.