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We need more smuggling in the UK says government

Cigarettes seized by customs officers at Birmingham Airport

Cigarettes sold in non branded packaging could appear on the shelves of shops by 2015 in a landmark move by the Prime Minister

By Claire Carter, and Peter Dominiczak

In a surprise u-turn, it seems that David Cameron has decided that given the alleged “health benefits” of Australia’s plain packaging policy, the UK will follow the same plain packaging approach by 2015.

Unfortunately the government appears to have given no consideration to the downside to plain packaging in that such nanny-state tactics have been a gold-mine for tobacco smugglers in Australia or that given the openness of free-trade between mainland Europe and the UK the only winners here will be both amature and professional tobacco smugglers.

Tobacco smuggling: HMRC ‘failures’ highlighted by MPs

Tobacco smuggling written evidence



  1. DICK R says:

    If as much effort was spent preventing illegal drug smuggling as the demonisation of smoking the world would be a much happier place.

  2. John Galt says:

    Not sure I buy the argument Dick, indeed I would argue that the sole reason why the cartels exist today which bring such misery to places like Mexico and Colombia are because of the US governments obstructive stance against widespread legalisation / decriminalisation, not just within it’s own borders, but globally.

    The cartels make about 80% of their profit on smuggling plain old marijuana, which is by far the worlds most common illegal drug by volume and again an argument for it’s legalisation / decriminalisation. I’d rather have the profits from the sale of marijuana going into government coffers than to bankroll the worlds most violent and dangerous criminals on the basis that this is the lesser of two evils.

    I’m not sure about harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin, etc., but if we started by legalising / decriminalising marijuana, I suspect we would find an appropriate way forward on hard drugs.

    However, the point I am trying to make here is that widespread government interference in smoking MAY have an effect by reducing smoking in the general population, but measures such as plain packaging and high taxation actually play into the hands of the smugglers as people take the cheaper, branded smuggled version in preference to the highly taxed, plain packet version.

    Equally, if the smuggled UK versions have legitimate foreign duty stamps and/or branding from EU member states (e.g. Romania where a packet of cigarettes retails around €1), then unless the smugglers are caught in the act, any packets found in the hands of UK consumers can be passed off as legitimate foreign purchases as EU citizens can theoretically buy any amount for personal consumption from any EU country, much to the dismay of HM Treasury.

    HMRC, which is responsible for preventing tobacco smuggling in the UK and spends around £70 million on anti-smuggling operations each year has routinely faced accusations of unlawful practice when seizing relatively small quantities (i.e. for personal consumption) of duty paid cigarettes and other tobacco products from UK day trippers to the continent who do so to avoid high UK tobacco duties and “nanny state” practices such as hidden packs and (in the future) plain packaging.

  3. NickM says:

    Absolutely agree JG. This is lunacy with a nuclear pogo-stick. On so many levels. iDave seems hell-bent on being contra all the good aspects of the EU (the ones that don’t really need the EU apparatus – just get free-trade and leave it at that – first Europe then the World! And why not). The war on drugs is a disaster. As is the war on smokes. Free movement of people, goods and capital is the key but iDave seems obsessed contra this but perfectly happy to engage with the bean-feast that is the Brussels’ festival of all twats..

  4. John Galt says:

    Well Nick, you’re a smoker – what will YOU be doing?

  5. The whole prohibition movement is based upon nonsense.

    See Professor Frank Dikotter’s lecture to the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies.

    “Patient Zero – the myth of the opium plague in China”.

    No I do not do “links”.

    The idea (much beloved by Hollywood) that millions of Chinese were reduced to addicts by the evil British is nonsense.

    As for cigarette smuggling – in New York City it was Mayor Bloomsburg’s unintentional subsidy for the Organised Crime.

    High tax means more smuggling – plain packets make it worse.

    But our rulers seem to have no clue about such things.

  6. NickM says:

    No, they don’t get it Paul. Clearly. JG, I’ve always fancied a trip to Romania to see where old Drac came from… and the coast is nice too.

  7. John Galt says:

    I’ve actually been in Castle Bran and it’s more impressive on the outside than the inside.

    Bwahhaahaa! I vant to trink your blood!

    I was there just after Mr. & Mrs. Ceaușescu got shot and they were keen to show us the bullet holes in downtown Braşov where they lined their local securitate up against the wall.

    Bang Bang - your dead!

    Actually, I might save you a trip, it looks like my prices are out of date as Romanian cigarette prices have increased. More up to date figures from the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association suggests that Estonia is where the best action is.

    EU Tobacco Prices

    Still, being a tight fisted bastard, £2.38 for a pack of 20 in Estonia still seems a lot to me and thats without the absence of vampires! I suppose you could go and see the Seaplane Harbour, but in comparison giving up smoking begins to look like an attractive proposition.

    I know Cheshire isn’t exactly the rolling fields of Virginia, but maybe you could try growing your own?

  8. NickM says:

    Vampires are cool! I could do it indoors in one of out-buildings and please don’t mention Disley too often. I tell you soon about a castle in Poland. Quite an odd story.

  9. Sam Duncan says:

    I sense fishiness. “Surprise U-turn”? Why? He didn’t just decide to ignore all the evidence and opposition to plough ahead with this insanity on a whim. Someone’s twisting arms.

  10. John Galt says:

    It would seem like it’s not so stupid an idea after all

    Grow your own tobacco in the UK

    I love the disclaimer “HMRC Announcement: Homegrowers are reminded to pay their tax on homegrown tobacco“.

    I mean – as if… :-)

    Mind you, if you are going to go to the trouble of growing your own tobacco, you might as well go the whole hog and grow your own marijuana.

  11. John Galt says:

    There was a fairly decent study on the impact of smuggling due to excessive taxation in California, where it was proposed that an additional $2 was to be added to each pack of cigarettes, opponents pointed out in their report on the proposals:

    - Approximately 1 out of every 5 cigarettes consumed in California is smuggled, as of 2011. In total, this amounts to approximately 220 million smuggled cigarettes annually – roughly equivalent to the total annual cigarette consumption in the state of Arizona.

    - A $2 tax increase would increase the price of cigarettes to nearly $8 per pack and make California the sixth highest priced state in the United States to purchase cigarettes.

    - The $2 tax increase would double California’s current smuggling rate to 39% of total cigarettes consumed. This would leave California with the third highest smuggling rate in the United States, behind New York and Washington, D.C.

    - By failing to account for smuggling, proponents overestimate tax revenue from tobacco products by $500 million annually due to smuggling caused by the tax increase.

    - In addition, lost legitimate retail sales will eliminate approximately 11,000 direct retail jobs. Note that these 11,000 jobs lost are due only to the loss in retail sales of legitimate tobacco sales. It does not account for any loss in retail jobs due to overall decrease in tobacco consumption from increased prices in legitimate sales via the proposed tax increase.

    None of which should be a surprise to the libertarians amongst us who have even a basic understanding of how economics (or even real life) actually works outside the closeted confines of the bansturbators committee rooms.

  12. RAB says:

    You evil cruel swine! Don’t you know that this is all for the Cheeeldren! I heard a bansurbator harridan crowing about it on the World at One today. And no logical arguement would budge her. Her “reasoning” went like this…

    Children are attracted to bright shiny packaging. They are induced to take up smoking because they see the flashy coloured boxes and lust after them. They cannot control themselves, so we have to control them for their own good. The fact that nobody in their right mind has ever taken up smoking because of the cool looking box the smokes come in, but on taste and price, is beyond her Ken.

    So let me take this logically, step by step as they taught me to do in Law School…

    1. All of my life it has been a criminal offence to sell tobacco to a person under the age of 18. If this law is being enforced, problem solved… nobody under the age of 18 is smoking. It’s not of course. The kids my age who started smoking first used to buy singles from the local shop,and it was peer pressure to do that not packaging that got them started, because there was no packaging involved.

    2. Advertisments for Tobacco have been banned for donkey’s years, and now we have the “Out of Sight Out of Mind” Law, whereby tobacco products are hidden behind doors and shutters and we smokers have to go through an elaborate pantomime with the vendors to get the brand we want to buy. Christ it was bad enough when they were on open display… Pack of Winston please… No thats B&H you’ve just picked up… No with the red flash not the white… no go to your left a bit… no LEFT… you do know left from right? And on and on. Now it is almost impossible. Which is exactly as it has been designed to be, isn’t it?

    3. So now they want plain packaging to stop the Cheeeeldren lusting after death-sticks because of the groovy packaging. Well see 1&2 above. How the flying fuck are they seeing the packaging and lusting after it? This is pure bansturbatory spite and fucking with your head. It is idiotic drivel of the first water.

    You know that your Government has completely lost the plot when they start enacting laws like this and try and tell you with a straight face that they are being sane and reasonable.

    Meanwhile the trade in illegal drugs is booming. It goes from strength to strength year after year. Supply can barely meet demand, and guess what? It’s all dispensed via plain packaging.

  13. John Galt says:

    In fairness to Cameron, he could be using this whole lets have a review as a delaying tactic to get the bansturbators off his back for an issue that can only lose the Tories votes, there ain’t any win in this at all for Cameron.

    That would be a sensible political move, but the problem is that I actually think that Cameron believes this “the proles are too ignorant and stupid to help themselves stop smoking” bollocks.

    Why can’t they just leave the proles alone to enjoy their beer and fags and maybe a bet on the geegees?

  14. RAB says:

    “In fairness to Cameron…”

    In fairness to fuckin Cameron!? I prefer to shoot first and save judgement for later. I want the 4th rate Blair wannabee consigned to the dustbin of history as soon as possible. The Talking Horse’s Arse will be no improvement, in fact he will be worse, but until things get obviously and demonstrably worse, there will be no improvement.

  15. John Galt says:

    So RAB isn’t a fan of either Cameron or rEd Millipede?

    Hmmm. Nigel Farage then perhaps has your best interests at heart?

    My mate Mike loves Nigel and would drag his dick through a mile of broken glass just to hear him fart through a walkie talkie.

    But when all’s said and done he’s just another public school educated toff pretending to be blokey to get elected. Like Tony B.Liar in many ways…

  16. RAB says:

    I vote UKIP (me and a whole 460 others in my ward) for one reason and one reason only, to get us out of the EU. There have been some very flakey members past and present, but Farage is at least value for my tax dollar. He has wit and accerbation, and sticks it to those bastards in the EU Parliament at every given opportunity. Just look at their faces when he launches forth. They’d like to take him out and shoot him for shitting in their cosy nest, but they just don’t have the powers or the confidence for that just yet.

    Public schoolboy or not, he genuinely likes a drink and a smoke, not just pretends he does for vote winning purposes. Churchill did to, Harrow man I believe. Not a bad bloke all in all was he?

    The test for UKIP, as it has been for the Limp/Damps, is what they will do if they get a sniff of real power rather than the endless promise of what they’ll do if they get it.

    Time will tell…

  17. CountingCats says:

    Counterfeit cigarettes?

    They look like real ciggies to me.

  18. John Galt says:

    My apologies, a bit of BBC agitprop got in there.

    There are such counterfeit cigarettes made in China, which are a feature of Australian smuggling (chop chop, etc.) but the majority of smuggled cigarettes in the UK are actually purchased wholesale by the truck /van load and then brought across on channel ferries or via containers marked as non-dutiable goods.

  19. RAB says:

    I bought a carton of supposedly Benson and Hedges in Egypt a few years ago. God knows what was actually in them… Camel poo, straw and sawdust perhaps, but tobacco they certainly wern’t. They went straight into the Nile.

    See this is the thing about counterfeiting rather than smuggling… The boxes looked kosher but the contents wern’t, and all the work had been done on the boxes to make them look authentic. If you force plain packaging then the packaging will be as easy to forge as the old white fiver was, and will make the counterfeiter’s job much easier and cheaper.

    Does anyone know if you can easily, and without HMRC hassle, buy ciggies on the internet from EU countries and have them delivered here, at much lower tax rates and therefore cheaper than here? Well it’s supposed to be a free market innit?

  20. John Galt says:

    Not according to the ECJ ruling on Staatssecretaris van Financiën v. B.F. Joustra which essentially means that to make use of the personal use exemption you have to go to the EU country, physically purchase the goods yourself and physically ship them back yourself.

    Any purchases of cigarettes over the internet from other countries (regardless of EU or not) would be subject to UK levels of duty on arrival. However, if discovered by HMRC it is likely that the cigarettes will simply be destroyed and HMRC can send you a demand for duty evaded plus penalties (if they can be bothered).

    TL;DR – No.

  21. RAB says:


    I thought you may say something like that. Ah well… I have a Sterling Silver cigarette case around the place somewhere. Pick the branding out of that.

  22. Flaxen Saxon says:

    A few points to ponder, not all totally relevant to the post:
    Can anyone think of any drug, legal or otherwise, once discovered or manufactured, which has disappeared from the human landscape? Of course, a particular drug use can wax and wane according to taste, circumstance and economic factors.

    What would you consider the most dangerous drugs in Western society?

    The New Zealand government is committed to a ‘tobacco free NZ’ by 2025?


  23. John Galt says:

    I don’t think that any of even the most ancient drug usage has been abandoned, after all a high is a high, but I doubt whether certain practices such as the use of the Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) that was common in the court of the ancient egyptian pharaohs is used anywhere in the present day, certainly not in the form it was used by them (soaked in vats of wine and then drunk).

    As for “tobacco free NZ by 2025″, well there is nothing to stop them legislating the prohibition of tobacco in New Zealand and it might result in a drastic reduction, but those who want to smoke will still smoke and the black market costs will simply rise to accommodate the risks involved to the smugglers.

    Having known a few Kiwi’s, they’d probably just switch exclusively to marijuana! Party on dudes!

  24. I like that interior – I do not like ruins (I am one myself – I do not like seeing others). I prefer a restoration even if it is not in “authentic style”. Let the fantasy of people such as the Third Marquis of Bute run free!

    As for the P.C. elite and their “….. free country by the yea ……..”.

    Bleep, bleep, bleep. bleep.

  25. John Galt says:

    I see the LSD has finally kicked in Paul…

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