Smuggling increasing: capitulation to organised crime or continue with good health?

Sunday 07 November 1999
ASH/ Press releases/

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Press release
7th November 1999

Action on Smoking
and Health

Smuggling Increasing: Capitulation to organised crime orcontinue with good health policy?

The latest Mintel report [1] refers to a thriving black market in smuggled cigarettes, which they attribute to the Government’s high tobacco tax policy. Karl Brookes of ASH said: “Customs are tackling the problem. High tobacco taxes cause people to smoke less or even to quit. Criminal activity can not be allowed to undermine this good health policy.”

The drop in sales could also be due to smokers quitting, or cutting down on their smoking, for health reasons. The Mintel report also reveals that 62% of former smokers gave up for health reasons and that 46% of smokers regret starting. Moreover, the Office for National Statistics shows that 70% of smokers want to quit.

The ‘smuggling epidemic’ stories are following a familiar pattern. In Sweden and Canada [2], the problem of smuggling was continually ‘hyped’up. Both Governments cut tobacco taxes. Once the tobacco industry had reduced tobacco taxes, the amount of news coverage reduced but the smuggling continued. The tobacco industry could help solve the problem of smuggling by not supplying their products to known suppliers of tobacco smugglers [3].

Brookes added: “If people knowingly buy smuggled cigarettes or use the Internet to buy tobacco without paying the UK duty, then they are breaking the law. The risk of conviction is not worth the savings.”

[1]. Mintel Product Report on the Cigarette Market, Executive Summary, 5.11.99

[2]. In Canada the reversal has hit tax revenues and stimulated extrasmoking ­ it has been a clear lose-lose outcome.

[3]. The International Herald Tribune reported the first successfulprosecutions of tobacco industry executives (from RJ Reynolds) forinvolvement in smuggling on December 24, 1998. Tobacco companies havesupplied wholesalers in Belgium and Andorra knowing that thecigarettes would re-enter the UK illegally. The Gallaher 1997 annualreport says:”Gallaher believes the gains [to Gallaher] in Andorra relate toincreased bootlegging trade into the UK.”


Contact Karl Brookes (0207) 739 5902
Amanda Sandford (0207) 739 5902

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