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Thursday, 24 October 2013

U.K. Government Launches Tobacco Smuggling inquiry

The Association of Convenience Stores is urging the government to rethink how it goes after tobacco smugglers.

U.K. retailers are applauding a government probe into tobacco smuggling, The Grocer reports. The Home Affairs Committee is starting an investigation into how the country should be doing to stop the sale and import of contraband tobacco. Contraband tobacco sales cost the United Kingdom an estimated £2 billon each year.

“The U.K. has one of the highest rates of tobacco duty in the EU, which makes it one of the most lucrative markets for smugglers. The role of Border Force is therefore vital in reducing the supply of illicit tobacco. We will be looking at the scale of the problem and what more can be done to tackle it,” said Keith Vaz MP, who chairs the committee.

Part of the investigation will center on the reasons behind a drop over the past three years in the number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions for smuggling tobacco. The committee will also look into why the Border Force missed its own goals for seizing illegal tobacco in 2012/2013 and how Ireland’s plain packaging regulations would impact contraband tobacco in the United Kingdom. Ireland is experiencing its own uptick in tobacco smuggling.

“It is not good enough that the government has missed its own targets for reducing tobacco smuggling this year,” said James Lowman, CEO of the Association of Convenience Stores. “It is time for a rethink about the resources available to police and trading standards in prioritizing the detection and closing down the criminal operations that blight our communities and damage the livelihoods of legitimate retailers.”

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