ASH Daily News for 5 February 2020



print
UK

Councils in crisis with more tax rises and service cuts due

Grimsby: Thousands of illegal cigarettes and kilos of tobacco seized in raids by HMRC

International

Europe’s menthol ban has tobacco firms thinking outside the pack

UK

Councils in crisis with more tax rises and service cuts due

Council tax is likely to increase on top of increased fees to fund what in many cases will be reduced levels of local services, according to a survey of local authorities. It reveals that 97% of local authorities will put council tax up again in April to cope with a growing financial crisis, and the same proportion will raise charges for services such as parking, garden waste disposal and aspects of social care.

The latest State of Local Government analysis reveals widespread despair among councils over their financial health after a decade during which spending has been cut in half and the gap between demand and resources has grown. More than a fifth of councils said the cuts to frontline services that they would be forced to make in 2020-21 were of a scale and impact that would be noticeable to the general public. One in 10 said shrinking resources meant they were in danger of being unable to meet their legal obligation to deliver statutory services. Three-quarters of councils had no confidence that local government finance arrangements were sustainable, while only 3% were confident that the government would act to halt the council funding crisis.

Jonathan Carr-West, the chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, a thinktank that carried out the annual survey, said: “The state of local government finances is dire. Eight years later and the message continues to be the same, a broken record. It is simply unacceptable that the government has let things get to this point.”

Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, said the survey should be a wake-up call for ministers. “The fact is that years of neglect have created this crisis. We need to see urgent action,” he said. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Next year, councils in England will have access to £49.1bn – the biggest annual real-terms increase in spending power in a decade – including an extra £1.5bn for social care. The funding plans provide certainty for councils who are responsible for delivering the services their communities need.”

Source: The Guardian, 5 February 2020

Read Article

Grimsby: Thousands of illegal cigarettes and kilos of tobacco seized in raids by HMRC

Customs officers discovered thousands of cigarettes and kilos of tobacco during a number of raids across Grimsby. The raids were part of an operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco in Grimsby, and collected a major haul of illicit products from 11 retail and two residential premises.

Officers found 75,220 cigarettes, 12.75 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, and 5.5 kilos of shisha tobacco, the overall find was worth £34,269 in duty.

Operation Nightshade, the ongoing campaign by North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards, has found 736,848 cigarettes and 684.9 kilos of tobacco from raids in the area. HMRC’s operations over the last two financial years have led to more than 2.8 billion illicit cigarettes and more than 439 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco seized, resulting in 548 successful prosecutions.

Source: Grimsby Live, 31 January 2020

Read Article

International

Europe’s menthol ban has tobacco firms thinking outside the pack

From 20th May 2020 sales of menthol flavoured cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco will be banned across the EU. In January, Imperial Brands Plc started selling cardboard strips that can be inserted into a cigarette pack or pouch of rolling tobacco to impart a peppermint aroma. Rival Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has introduced cigarillos—small cigars that are exempt from the ban—with capsules that release menthol at the push of a button.

While menthol tobacco represent less than 5% of the market in Western Europe, according to Euromonitor analyst Jose Becerril, they generate $11 billion (around £8.4 billion) in sales across the continent. In the UK, around a quarter of the market consists of menthol and crushball cigarettes, which contain flavours that can be activated by squeezing the cigarette’s filter – this amounts to around $4.7 billion (around £3.6 billion).

The flavoured products have been targeted by tobacco control groups as they promote addiction by disguising the harshness of tobacco smoke. Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said: “It’s disgraceful behavior from companies which say they’re not trying to addict youth. If the government doesn’t act quickly to put a stop to these practices, we expect them to quickly become widespread.”

EU countries approved the ban in 2016. Imperial’s card fits inside a pack of cigarettes, and after at least an hour the contents of the pack take on the flavour. Imperial can advertise the cards and they can be displayed in stores, unlike most tobacco products, which need to be kept out of sight. Imperial has already been selling menthol filter tips for loose tobacco for years, and the company plans to offer the new strips in other European countries. JTI said the ban is unlikely to prevent menthol cigarette smokers from using other tobacco products. The ban does not include heated tobacco products such as Philip Morris’ IQOS, which introduced menthol flavoured tobacco sticks last year.

The question therefore remains whether menthol smokers will quit smoking or switch to alternative products. After Canada prohibited menthol-flavoured tobacco in October 2017, quitting rates among menthol smokers in Ontario were higher than those of non-menthol smokers one year later, according to a study led by the University of Toronto’s Michael Chaiton and colleagues. The tobacco industry’s attempts to undermine the ban through introducing a wider variety of products designed to maintain smokers’ access to menthol flavoured tobacco products may mean the EU does not see such positive results.

Source: Bloomberg, 5 February 2020

Read Article