Possibly related: What is "Galacian tobacco" and what is its significance?
Carbide by Andriy Lyubka starts with the following news item:
BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - A smuggling title the length of seven soccer pitches complete with its own train has been found running beneath the border between Slovakia and Ukaraine along with more than 2.5 million contraband cigarettes, the Slovak government said on Thursday. Police said the tunnel had possibly also been used to smuggle people into...
July 19, 2012
Why "2.5 million contraband cigarettes"? I'm aware from the linked question that there was, in fact, extensive tobacco smuggling in Europe, including between Ukraine and its neighbors (the other book referred specifically to smuggling cigarettes into Ukraine from Poland). There was apparently even a Spanish drug cartel that specialized in tobacco smuggling (and more recently cocaine), who may have been behind the tobacco smuggling referred to in the other book. However, it still seems slightly odd to me that both Sweet Darusya and Carbide would feature tobacco smuggling so prominently and say nothing about other drugs. Is tobacco smuggling just a "bigger deal" in Ukraine than it is in the U.S.?
The one thing I did find is a WHO paper that claimed, among other things, that Ukraine has an unusually high prevalence of smokers. However, it also claims that 97% of the cigarette market is controlled by transnational corporations, who produce most of their cigarettes locally (and presumably legally) using mostly imported tobacco leaves. It also states that the real price of legal cigarettes has fallen substantially over time.
Can someone explain this quote to me? Why would the main good they were smuggling through the tunnel be illegal cigarettes?