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Society

Greece’s Tax Chief, Cigarette Company Team Against Tobacco Smuggling

January 31, 2021

ATHENS – Greece’s major cigarette distributor Papastratos and the country’s tax collection agency are collaborating in a scheme to slow illicit tobacco trade, a move which could boost revues for the company.

Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE) head Giorgos Pitsilis and Papastratos Chairman and CEO Christos Harpantidis signed the agreement in which the tobacco company will donate equipment to the agency to fight the unlawful competition, said Kathimerini.

“This agreement is viewed as an opportunity to develop action and change our way of thinking in the field of smuggling and protection of consumers. I hope it will be another step in cooperation that, on the one hand, will lead us to work at the same table to face common challenges and, on the other hand, will translate into concrete actions with visible results,” Pitsilis said.

Papastratos in 2020 again was named the country’s Top Employer despite producing a product that puts more people in hospitals and on ventilators than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Papastratos donated 50 ventilators for use in Greek hospitals, including 19 to intensive care units at the Sotiria General Hospital of Thoracic Diseases in Athens, drawing praise from Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias, tasked with trying to slow health hazards, including widespread tobacco use.

The company is affiliated with Philip Morris International, the world’s largest multinational tobacco company, and was accused of a “shameful publicity stunt” by a leading campaigner after donating the ventilators.

A PMI executive said that the company’s Greek affiliate Papastratos had sourced and paid for the ventilators in order to help “flatten the curve,” the paper earlier also  said.

Stavros Drakoularakos, PMI’s director of communications for Greece, tweeted the news and said he was “sky-high proud” of the move and described it as “proof of what sheer will and collaboration between all can achieve”.

Deborah Arnott, CEO of Action on Smoking and Health, said that, “This is a shameful publicity stunt by Philip Morris International, which owns Papastratos and has a 40% share of the Greek tobacco market,” reported The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in March 2020.

“Smoking makes people more vulnerable to coronavirus, and if they get it makes the symptoms worse, meaning they’re more likely to need ventilators. Papastratos makes 1.3 billion euros ($1.58 billion) a year … in comparison, the donation of 50 ventilators is a drop in the ocean.”

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