Sir; Tobacco smuggling is certainly a major problem in the UK and I agree with Ken Patel, spokesman for Retailers Against Smuggling, that more should be done to tackle it (Readers’ Letters, February 25, p28).
However, where I disagree with him is on the method of dealing with this illegal activity.
Cutting tobacco tax would not cut smuggling, as the bulk of illicit tobacco in the UK has borne no tax whatsoever. These products typically originate in the UK but are diverted onto the black market through unscrupulous third parties and then smuggled back. Counterfeit tobacco products certainly appear to be increasing, but they make up less than 3% of the total UK cigarette market.
No one doubts that the black market undercuts retailers’ profits, but they must accept that the Chancellor is not going to reverse his policy on tobacco tax. The government is committed to reducing tobacco consumption and will thus keep tobacco taxes high.
However, retailers could lobby the government for tighter measures to curb smuggling and for a reform of the EU tax directive to introduce minimum tax levels across the EU.
Also, tobacco companies could do far more to reduce illegal sales, such as more efficient tracking systems.