Sir; Audrey Wales of the Tobacco Alliance cites The Grocer’s survey showing that 84% of retailers believe the way to cut tobacco smuggling is to reduce the level of taxation (‘When will government listen over tax’, January 8, p22).
However, there is no evidence to show that reducing tobacco taxes would stop smuggling. It tends to occur where border controls are weak and not, as the Tobacco Alliance claims, as a result of traffic from low tax countries. In fact, the answer to the smuggling problem lies with the tobacco companies.The number of cigarettes smuggled into the UK over the past four years has been in decline, while duty has increased.
The principal reason for this decline is that Imperial Tobacco has taken steps to stop the illegal re-importation of British made cigarettes.
In 2000-01, 50% of cigarettes smuggled into the UK were Imperial brands. By 2003-04, Imperial’s share had dropped to 3%. Similar pressure should be applied to Gallaher to cut its black market contribution.