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Be fair to smokers, George! Axe the tobacco escalator

Pleased to report the launch today of a new Forest campaign. Here's a summary:

  • At least eight million adults in the UK choose to smoke tobacco, a legal consumer product.
  • In the last parliament the Coalition Government maintained the tobacco duty escalator (2% above inflation) that it inherited from the previous Labour government.
  • In 2011 the Chancellor implemented a one-off increase to 5% above inflation, before returning to 2% in 2012.
  • During the last parliament tobacco taxation in the UK increased by more than 40%.
  • The total tax on the price of the cheapest cigarettes in the UK is now 88%.
  • In 2014/15 smokers in the UK paid a total of £12.1 billion in duty and VAT. According to EU Commission, the UK has the highest excise yield on cigarettes in the EU.
  • Punitive taxation encourages criminal activity and fuels the black market. In 2014/15 the Government lost an estimated £2.6 billion in revenue as a result of non-UK duty paid tax on tobacco (£2.1 billion to illicit traders, £0.5 billion to legitimate cross-border shopping.)
  • Illicit trade (including counterfeit cigarettes) puts children at greater risk because criminals don't respect age restrictions.
  • Law-abiding consumers who buy tobacco from legitimate retailers in the UK are disproportionately penalised.
  • Excessive taxation compounds poverty and increases inequality because those hardest hit are the elderly and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Ignoring the reality of the situation anti-smoking campaigners want further hikes on the cost of tobacco.

Last October, for example, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health run by ASH called for the tobacco escalator to be increased from inflation plus two per cent to inflation plus five per cent every year during the current parliament.

According to reports that could lead to packs of cigarettes costing £15 by 2020, rising to £20 (or £1-a-cigarette) a few years after that.

Axe The Escalator is a long-term campaign designed to combat these demands. We do however need your immediate support.

The next Budget is on March 16 and it's important consumers make their voices heard sooner rather than later in case the Chancellor is tempted to increase taxation above and beyond the current escalator, let alone jump off it.

Please visit the Axe The Escalator website or go direct to the 'Tell Your MP' page.

Enter your postcode and a letter will appear addressed to your MP. If you agree with it follow the instructions and we'll send it to your MP on your behalf. It should take no more than a minute or two.

In due course we will advise the Chancellor about the strength of opposition to further tax increases.

Meanwhile, here's my article for City AM, published today – Axe the tobacco tax escalator: Punitive taxation of smoking is just fuelling the black market.

There's also a news report here – Anti-smoking restrictions lobby group Forest calls on chancellor George Osborne to avoid hiking tobacco duty in next month's Budget.

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Reader Comments (7)

I've done the email thing but my MP tends to do as he's told by 'public health' so likely won't listen

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterBucko

When the Govt gives me something back other than abuse and social exclusion from the anti-smoker industry paid lobbyists, then I'll start buying my tobacco in the UK again.

Until then tell me why I should continue to be the highest tax paying consumer to get nothing but more bans, more tax, more denials of healthcare, more inequality, more removal of consumer rights such as plain packaging etc etc...

The Govt will only be fair to smokers when it stops listening to the smokerphobics that have infiltrated its quangos - but good luck with the campaign anyway.

Sadly, it is the less well off who suffer most because they cannot go abroad to buy, they cannot afford high tax on the regulated product and so they are forced to the black market and God knows that might be in a product distributed by criminals who don't ask for age ID before selling to anyone even kids who might want it.

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 15:06 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Tobacco taxes should be cut or at least held stable rather than increased. Increasing taxes on tobacco only benefits organised crime and black market profiteers.

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 16:24 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

No political credibility with tobacco tax. Hysterical tobacco controllers must be axed.

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 17:50 | Unregistered Commentergray

You state that tax makes up 88% of the purchase price of a packet of cigarettes. Can I suggest pointing out that that means that they are actually taxed at 733%!

Yes, seven hundred and thirty three per cent.

This is the figure that should be shouted from the rooftops in my view. What's worse is that this 'robbery' is generally from the poorest people in society. Better off people can more readily buy in bulk from elsewhere in the EU.

You might want to contrast this figure with the tax on luxury goods (VAT) of 20% that is justified as being targeted primarily at the rich.

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 18:33 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Has any government had the nouse yet to realise that they receive less in tax receipts for following the zealot line?

No amount of lies can ever hide the truth. Just look at the history.

Shame on those following the filthy lucre and disregarding their people they purport to represent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 0:12 | Unregistered CommenterHelen D

Seven hundred and thirty three percent tax is daylight robbery. The government should have no right to single out one group of consumers over any other to be a source for high taxes. Government is actually making tobacco look more desirable by raising the price. This is not right if it wants people to quit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 6:21 | Unregistered Commentermark

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