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Survey finds increase in untaxed tobacco sales

20 Aug 2018. A survey of the behaviours of over 12,000 adult smokers in the UK, which was commissioned by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA), has found that over 76 percent of adult UK smokers are regularly dodging taxes by purchasing untaxed tobacco from the black market, abroad or duty free, TMA reported in a press release.

According to TMA’s findings, the amount of smokers purchasing untaxed and illegal tobacco is higher than ever before. The survey found that high tobacco taxation, the introduction of plain packaging and the ban on minimum tobacco pack sizes are pushing smokers in the UK to buy untaxed tobacco, the press release stated.

The survey found that 16 per cent of adult smokers in the UK spend more than GBP 1,000 (EUR 1,113) on untaxed tobacco every year; 28 per cent agreed that plain packaging drew them to purchase untaxed tobacco and 37 per cent of smokers in the UK agreed that minimum pack sizes convinced them to purchase untaxed tobacco, according to the press release. 86 per cent of participants said that tobacco prices are too high and 56 per cent said that increasing tobacco prices have tempted them to purchase untaxed tobacco.

The average price for a pack of 20 illegal cigarettes is GBP 4.33 (EUR 4.82), which is nearly half the regular price for a legal pack of cigarettes in the UK.

TMA said it suggests that the UK create restrictions on personal tobacco imports to stop smokers from purchasing unlimited amounts of cheap tobacco from the EU.

TMA said that this would prevent criminals from purchasing large amounts of tobacco for personal use and selling it illegal.

Giles Roca, director general of the TMA commented on the findings saying: “This survey shows the issue of untaxed tobacco is becoming an even greater problem across the UK with over three-quarters of smokers buying non-UK duty paid tobacco in the last year, the highest ever figures. Smokers cite price as the chief reason for avoiding duty and with tax making up 90 per cent of the price, combined with two duty increases in 2017 we can see the direct impact that the Government’s taxation policy is having.

“The Government needs to undertake a full review of its approach towards tobacco as their policies are contributing to this illegal activity, which affects local communities, public finances and small business.”