Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) launched a public education initiative entitled United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) to combat black market trade. Supported by a coalition of national and state private and public sector partners, the campaign will provide local officials, law enforcement, and thought leaders with information and training programs to help tackle illegal trade and raise public awareness of the depth of the problem as well as the severe consequences inflicted on states and municipalities by black market profiteers.
The campaign will run through 2021 in eight states facing critical illegal trade issues: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
“Illegal trade is a major problem that fuels serious organized criminal networks and damages our economy. No matter the commodity, these criminals will seize any opportunity to exploit markets and communities to bolster their nefarious activities,” said Martin King, CEO of PMI America. “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.”
Counterfeit and smuggled goods pose serious threats in many states. The situation has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with criminals seizing on opportunities to traffic all types of counterfeit and illegal products, including highly demanded personal protective equipment (PPE). Since January 2020, online counterfeited goods have jumped nearly 40 percent.
In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s only through open dialogue, cooperation, and the sharing of best practices between parties in the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, that we can continuously improve and advance efforts against illegal trade and the criminal networks benefiting from it.