PHILIPSBURG–Numerous retail points in St. Maarten are selling Marlboro brand cigarettes obtained from unofficial sources.
Philip Morris Exports (PME) recently sounded an alarm regarding the presence of Marlboro brand cigarettes in St. Maarten that are not from the official distributor for St. Maarten.
When asked how prevalent the problem is, PME told The Daily Herald in a response sent via its attorneys in St. Maarten on Friday: “To the extent of our knowledge and after an extensive verification of the St. Maarten market during the months of February through April, we were able to confirm that five out of six of the visited points of sale were carrying products obtained through sources different from the PMI [Philip Morris International – Ed.] authorised distributor in the market.”
PME indicated that the problem had been brought to its attention during the first quarter of this year.
Asked how consumers and retailers can recognise Marlboro products that come from the official distributor, PME said: “In order to differentiate the product distributed by Prime Distributors BV from those imported through other sources, the adult smoker can verify that the health warning on the official product states “Smoking Kills” both in English and Dutch, printed on the lower third of the front and back faces of the box.”
As for possible penalties for persons caught selling products from unofficial sources, PME said: “Currently, the problem is not [one that attracts – Ed.] a penalty, but the fact that one of the main issues that should be taken into consideration for products destined for human consumption is their appropriate handling and storage, which the manufacturer can validate only if the product is sourced from its authorised distributor. The people of St. Maarten should receive products with the expected quality.”
As for risks of using a product from an unofficial source, they said: “Beside of the aforementioned, as you may be aware, it is a fact that the diversion of fast-moving consumer goods is one of the means used by transnational criminal organisations for money-laundering and other criminal activities. PMI maintains authorised distributors in markets to maintain a proper chain of custody and to counter the effects of diversions of this sort.”
On behalf of PME, Gibson and Associates sent a letter recently to local supermarkets informing them that Prime Distributors is the sole authorised distributor of PMI brands (Marlboro) for the St. Maarten market. “PME has confirmed the presence in the market of cigarette products bearing the Marlboro trademark [that – Ed.] have reached the St. Maarten market without following PMI’s authorised channels and procedures, therefore not maintaining the proper chain of custody designed for these products,” that letter stated.
Supermarkets were urged to commercialise Marlboro product brands intended for the St. Maarten market, which are only distributed by Prime Distributors.