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Realign tobacco and alcohol prices and taxes to match Europe and prevent smuggling

Comment 8th July 2010

This is not a change to the laws as such, but a change to policy that will make the incentive to break laws disappear.

If we realign tobacco and alcohol prices and taxes to match France and the rest of Europe, then overnight the massive illegal smuggling of cheap cigarettes and alcohol will disappear.

We have lots of UK customs officials ceasing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of contraband tobacco and alcohol ever year. The alcohol is converted into aeroplane fuel and the glass is crushed and recycled. The cigarettes are destroyed. We have huge warehouses to store the seized material and the cost of administering all this runs into billions.

The UK customs staff that work on this should be redeployed as Immigration officials and Security officials. It is important that we deal with Security and Immigration, – By comparison customs should be scaled down a great deal – The only aspects of customs that should be emphasised are illegal importation of rare and protected species, weapons etc.

Why does this matter?

The UK government would lose revenues if we cut tobacco and alcohol taxes in line with the rest of Europe, but most of this revenue is then needlessly ploughed back into seizures and destruction of smuggled tobacco and alcohol.

The loss to legitimate tax-paying British businesses (and the government) caused by those who sell illegal imported “tax-free” tobacco and alcohol products “under the counter” runs into billions.

I do not smoke and I only rarely drink, so this suggestion is not selfishly motivated. It is an attempt to reduce crime and to reduce the need to police the crime by removing the incentive for it.

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