Chancellor’s failure to raise tobacco tax above inflation rate is a missed opportunity to cut the death toll from smoking.

Wednesday 17 March 2004

ASH news release: For immediate release: Wednesday 17 March 2004


Chancellor’s failure to raise tobacco tax above inflation rate is a missed opportunity to cut the death toll from smoking


Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement of an inflation-only increase on tobacco tax of just 8p per pack of 20 cigarettes, Deborah Arnott, Director of the health campaigning charity ASH, said:


“This is disappointing. The Chancellor has missed a golden opportunity to boost the government’s strategy to cut smoking rates and improve the nation’s health. Such a small increase in tax is unlikely to provide the incentive smokers need to help them to quit. Sadly this means more needless, totally preventable heart disease and cancer cases and thousands of premature deaths.”



ASH warned that the government still needed to do more to reduce tobacco smuggling which threatens to undermine the government’s plans to reduce smoking.   Although there are signs that cigarette smuggling may have peaked,   black market sales still account for around 18% of the total market. [1]   This means that the government is losing around £3 billion a year in tax revenue, many times more than that from alcohol or fuel.   The need for stronger government intervention to tackle tobacco smuggling was highlighted in the recently published review of future health options by the Treasury advisor, Derek Wanless. [2]   Deborah Arnott said:


“The Treasury commissioned Wanless report pointed out that raising the price of cigarettes is only fully effective if smuggling is under control. Since black market tobacco still accounts for almost a fifth of the market, it’s clear that more action to tackle smuggling is vital if the smoking epidemic is to be curbed.”




Notes and links:

Raising the tax on cigarettes is one of the best ways of reducing smoking rates. According to Customs & Excise,   a 10% increase in real terms leads to a 3% fall in consumption.


[1] Measuring and Tackling Indirect Tax Losses. HM Customs and Excise. December 2003

[2] Securing Good Health for the Whole Population. HM Treasury. February 2004


Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7739 5902 (w) 079 7693 5987 (m) ISDN available