Tobacco policy in crisis? smoking on the rise? tax cuts needed? It must be the pre-budget tobacco industry spin season!

Saturday 27 January 2001


27 January 2001: immediate


Tobacco policy incrisis? Smoking on the rise? Tax cuts needed? – it must be the pre-Budget tobaccoindustry spin season


ASH responded wearily to reports in today’s Daily Mailof a rise in smoking in Britain driven by the Chancellor’s policy of raisingtobacco taxes.  Clive Bates, Director ofASH said:


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“The figures purporting toshow a rise in smoking look very dubious and no source was provided.  In fact the official stats show that smokinghas declined steadily and that since 1996 there has been a sharp fall inteenage smoking.” [1]


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“Figures from the Office ofNational Statistics show that smoking rates among both men and women are at thelowest since the war at 26% and 27% respectively.   They may not be falling as fast as we would like, but people aresteadily turning away from tobacco.”


The figures for consumption of tobacco [numbers ofcigarettes], often quoted by the tobacco industry and used in the article, aremore easily misinterpreted and inaccurate than prevalence figures [proportionwho smoke] because of smuggling, stockpiling at all levels in the distributionchain and because it is difficult to convert hand-rolling tobacco intocigarette equivalents.


The tobacco industry claims that the problem wassmuggling caused by high taxation, and that a tax cut would be thesolution.  ASH rejects this as “simplisticand self-serving pre-budget lobbying”.


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“Cutting tobacco taxes willin fact increase total cigarette sales, which is why the tobacco companies wantit. They tend not to support policies that would shrink their business.” said Bates.  “And when the tobacco business grows, itmeans more addiction illness and death”


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“Cutting taxes will do littleto reduce total tobacco smuggling either. It might make White Van Man think twice about cross-Channel bootlegging,but he is only a small part of the real problem.  Even a deep tax cut would not deter the criminal gangs, whichaccount for 80 per cent of cigarette smuggling and avoid taxes altogether.


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“We know that cutting taxeswould not deter large scale smugglers because Italy and Spain have had muchlower levels of tax than Britain, but high levels of smuggling.  The real causes are organised crime,corruption and complicity of the tobacco industry.”


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“The real question about UKcigarette smuggling is why UK manufacturers, Imperial and Gallaher, exportbillions of cigarettes to countries where there is no market for the cigarettesand there is a high presence of organised crime” said Bates.


ASH also rejected claims that the government’s anti-smokingcampaigns are failing.


<spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’>“The new advertising campaignsand NHS services for smokers are working well and beginning to make adifference, but you can’t expect dramatic overnight results.  It may take people half a dozen attempts andmany months to kick the addictive and deadly habit for good.  This is even reflected in of the NHS campaignthemes, “Don’t give up giving up” said Bates


[1] <ahref=”http:”” pdfdir=”” drugs0500.pdf”=””>Teenage smokingstatistics for England – Office of National Statistics (2000) [PDF] – <spanstyle=’font-family:arial;’><ahref=”http:”” html=”” press=”” 001104.html#_teenage_smoking_statistics”=””>summary

[2] See <ahref=”http:”” html=”” smuggling=”” uksmuggling.html”=””>ASH evidenceto Treasury Select Committee on UK tobacco smuggling. October 2000


Contacts:Clive Bates,(ASH): 020 7739 5902 (office) 077 6879 1237 (mobile – CB)