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"Increasing cost of tobacco benefits no-one apart from spivs and criminals"

Wed 16th March, 2016

BUDGET 2016 – Forest has expressed disappointment that cigarette duty will continue to rise by two per cent above inflation (five per cent for hand rolling tobacco).

Simon Clark, director of Forest which runs the Axe The Tobacco Escalator campaign, criticised both the increase and the Chancellor's announcement of an "effective floor" on the price of cigarettes:

"Increasing the cost of tobacco benefits no-one apart from the spivs and criminals who sell illicit tobacco on the black market.

"Punitive taxation penalises law-abiding consumers and hurts every taxpayer who has to pay to reduce the loss of revenue."

“In the last parliament tobacco duty increased by 40 per cent and the total tax on the cheapest cigarettes in the UK is now a staggering 88 per cent.

"The total shortfall in tobacco revenue since 2010 is £10.7 billion. A large chunk of that has disappeared into the pockets of criminal gangs.

"In 2014/15 alone the revenue the government lost to illicit trade was £2.1 billion with a further £500k being lost to legitimate cross-border shopping."

Forest was also critical of the Chancellor's announcement of an “effective floor” on the price of cigarettes. According to Forest director Simon Clark:

"A floor on the price of cigarettes will hurt the low paid and others who can least afford it. The Chancellor is trying to price the less well off out of the market but all it will do is drive them to the black market."

A national poll conducted last week found there is little public support for further increases in tobacco duty.

According to the Populus survey of more than 2,000 people, only 24 per cent of the public think tobacco duty is "too low". In contrast 38 per cent think it’s "too high" and 31 per cent think it’s "about right".

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