The Islamic Republic of Iran is the biggest market for tobacco products in the Middle East. The Islamic revolution in 1979 didn’t keep Western companies like RJ Reynolds from sidestepping the national tobacco monopoly and smuggle their own products duty unpaid into the country.[1] One important transfer site was the free trade zone Kish Island in the Persian Gulf. In 2002, the Iranian government signed an agreement with Reemtsma and three other tobacco companies in order to replace the illicit trade in cigarette with legal imports.[2] US-American manufacturers like Philip Morris received the permission from US authorities to conclude trade agreements with the Mullah regime despite the official trade embargo.[3] But smuggled products are cheaper and thus in great demand by Iranian smokers.[4] Western brands are considered a symbol of freedom – all the more by women and youth. Former president Ahmadinejad accused the Revolutionary Guards to gain from the illicit trade deals.[5]

Further information:

WHO: The infiltration and exploitation of Iran by global cigarette companies

Sanctions, Smuggling, and the Cigarette (2014)