BY CHARU SUDAN KASTURI
Why You Should Care
Its civil war has turned Libya into the region’s cigarette smuggling leader.
The footage was dramatic — Mutassim Gadhafi, son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, smoking hours before he was killed in October 2012. But while one part of those images — the Gadhafi family — is now history, another is disturbingly present. Seven years into Libya’s civil war, contraband cigarettes have taken hold of the nation and are fueling the conflict. Even proverbs stand upended. In Libya, where there’s fire, there’s smoke. Lots of it.
LIBYA IMPORTS MORE ROLLED TOBACCO THAN ANY OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRY — AND USES 93 PERCENT OF IT TO MAKE CONTRABAND CIGARETTES.
Ordinary Libyans aren’t smoking more. Instead, most of Libya’s cigarette market is illegal, with fakes produced and smuggled by militias to keep their campaigns — and the war — alive.