Thursday 24 February 2011

Deluded Debs deep in denial

Chronically deluded neo-prohibitionist Deborah Arnott has popped up in The Guardian whinging about an article which stated the obvious about smuggling (ie. higher taxes = more smuggling). Apparently basic economics do not exist on Planet ASH. The headline says it all:

It is a myth that high duties on tobacco lead to increased smuggling

It would be an insult to your intelligence, dear reader, if I explained why Arnott is talking rubbish. It is Tim Worstall's unreconstructed view that Ms Arnott should shut up and put the kettle on. I also recommend reading the disparaging comments beneath the article itself.

But all you really have to do is take a look at some of the stories reported on ASH's own website in recent weeks:

Two million illegal cigarettes seized in East Lancashire in two months

More than two million illegal cigarettes have been seized in the past two months in East Lancashire. Health chiefs disclosed the figure as they drew up a plan to reduce the harm that smoking and illicit tobacco has on the lives of people in the area. The tobacco, which is illegal because it has either been smuggled into the country or is counterfeit, is thought to be responsible for four times as many deaths as drugs.

Cigarettes seized in tobacco smuggling crackdown in Burton-on-Trent

More than 13,000 cigarettes were recovered from three shops by officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Keith Morgan, Specialist Investigation Detection Manager for HMRC, said: “The people who sell these cigarettes are not concerned about where or how they are produced, or even who buys them, including young children and teenagers."

Warnings over sales of illegal cigarettes in South West

147 million packets of illegal cigarettes are smuggled into the South West each year, with an estimated street value of more than £104 million.

Smuggled cigarettes aimed at children

Trading standards officials in the North East are urging the public for help in stopping illegal tobacco after more than 600,000 packets of smuggled cigarettes were seized in the region. An appeal last year led to a surge in public tipoff’s about illegal cigarettes.

Richard Ferry, of the North-East Trading Standards Association, described the response as excellent and urged people to continue providing vital information. Ailsa Rutter, director of anti-smoking organisation Fresh, said: “The sellers have no morals. They will even sell single cigarettes called ‘lucies’ to children.”

Bootleg Russian cigarettes lined with Chinese asbestos

Smokers have been warned that some black market Russian cigarettes contain asbestos. Trading standards officials have revealed that many of the Jin Ling cigarettes contain industrial chemicals and asbestos-lined Chinese plasterboard. They come in yellow packs with the words Jin Ling and USA emblazoned across the front.

The brand has been described by the World Health Organization as ‘the most disturbing new development in the illegal tobacco trade anywhere in the world’.

Treasury counts cost of illicit tobacco smuggling

The sale of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes is estimated to cost the Treasury the equivalent of £10m a day in lost tax revenues. But it is not just government's coffers that are affected, small retailers such as newsagents are too.

Debbie Corris runs a tobacconists in Whitstable, and claims that cigarette smuggling has been hurting her business.

Officers seize 250,000 cigarettes at Newcastle airport

UK Border Agency officers at Newcastle Airport have intercepted more than a quarter of a million cigarettes that were being smuggled into the region.

South Yorkshire: Jail terms for cigarette smugglers

Four South Yorkshire crooks have been jailed for their part in a smuggling ring which helped the Italian Mafia flood Britain with black market cigarettes - while another escaped immediate custody.

Scotland: BBC exposes tobacco crime gangs in Scotland

A BBC investigation is set to expose the organised crime groups controlling Scotland's illegal tobacco trade. A BBC Scotland undercover team secretly filmed the supply chain. The illegal trade is estimated to cost the Treasury billions of pounds in lost taxes.

Northern Ireland: Customs seize 185,000 cigarettes

Ten kilograms of hand rolling tobacco and 185,000 counterfeit cigarettes have been seized in west Belfast. Two men from Belfast were arrested and cash and business records were also seized.

Birkenhead shopkeeper masterminded tobacco-packing scam

A shopkeeper who owned three stores in Birkenhead masterminded a huge tobacco-packaging scam to sell thousands of illegal cigarettes. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) raided his stores and seized £105,000 in cash.

Does Arnott really believe that there is no connection between sky-high tobacco taxes and the growth of a vast smuggling and counterfeiting industry which didn't exist until a few years ago? Since it is hard to believe that anyone could be so dense, I have to conclude—once again— that she is a liar.


JJ said...

Can anyone point to such examples as the above prior to the smoking ban?

Of course - Arnott can't acknowledge this though, can she?

Anonymous said...

ASH and their Anti Smoking Partnerships/Alliances have for years lobbied the Government to increase the UK tax on Tobacco products.

Little wonder that smuggling has increased and also the number of people travelling abroad to buy their cigarettes cheaper(legally) in spite of harassment by the UKBA.

The corruption of GLOBAL TOBACCO CONTROL, it's funding, vested interests and ruthless action against anyone in the scientific community who dares oppose their views need to be exposed.
Google and you will see the extent of the Anti-Smoking parasite that has infested the world.

Pat Nurse MA said...

Sadly, it seems main stream party politicians are stupid and they believe liars :<(

Anonymous said...

Chris and others,
I don't know why but for the last few days I have been unable to access your blog via Internet Explorer (Version: 8.0.6001. 18702). Each time I receive the following: "Internet Explorer cannot open the internet site: .... Operation aborted".
Does anyone else use IE 8 and have no problems. It may just be me.
In case you're wondering, I'm using Firefox to post this comment.

Mark Wadsworth said...

I must say, I'm not wholly against duties on fags and booze for whatever pragmatic reasons, and I'm insulated somewhat against duty on tobacco because I smoke rollies which are a bit cheaper, but the tax on a packet of cigarettes is absolutely outrageous.

If they cost £3 a packet or even £3.50, fair enough, people would pay it, but £6 is just stupid, it bears no relation to anything whatsoever.

Angry Exile said...

Since it is hard to believe that anyone could be so dense, I have to conclude—once again— that she is a liar.

I've always thought that a lot of these mouthpieces and shills are dense enough to bend light, but that doesn't mean she can't be a liar as well.

Anonymous said...

Bold plans to slash number of Welsh smokers by a third

Anonymous said...

I don’t think Debbie would debate that Prohibition led to a black market. What little Deb doesn’t want to accept – at least publicly – is that extortionate taxes are the equivalent of prohibition for those of lower income. The attempt has been to tax the lower income out of the habit, referred to by Public Health as “help”. But the “helpees” don’t want to quit the habit and they can’t afford the artificially inflated cost of tobacco, i.e., they don’t want the forced “help”. Enter le market noir providing a “social service”.

And who could not have seen this coming from light years away. Well, not the antismoking mentality. The bleeding obvious has a way of eluding this mentality….. a sort of fools rush in where sensibility fears to tread.

So, jump in against the counsel of sanity is the antismoking battle-cry. Then, deny any negative consequences of antismoking activity: Refer to any sound criticism as “myths”. This is what makes the antismoking mentality particularly dangerous. The derangement that is the antismoking mentality is beyond reasoning with. Yet it runs the show, and fully supported by officialdom. In fact, it is officialdom.

Anonymous said...

“Myths”, blather the antismoking likes of little Deb. “Myths”… “myths”.... nothing-filled phantasm-bubbles popped by the “truth”-filled pricks of antismoking. Business hardship, black market, irrational fear, or bigotry as a consequence of antismoking propaganda? All myths.... the myth-making of the “insubordinates”. All myths, on a par with, say, Jason and the Argonauts, just fanciful stories.

Thankful we should be that little Deb and her ilk have their collective prickly finger on the pulse of Truth®, able to discern fact from fiction (myth) for the benefit of the “lesser mortals” (i.e., everyone else).


Anonymous said...

Minister Deb from the Ministry of Truth® has Imparted™ the Truth® for the Day:

“It is a myth that high duties on tobacco lead to increased smuggling.”

She was filmed by the BBC making the Impartation™ while two council workers in the background were buying cigarettes from the open boot of a car – obviously a licensed trader (mobile tobacco kiosk).

[Cigarette packs where “Marlboro” is spelled with three “t”’s are fakes]

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX Pat Nurse MA said...

Sadly, it seems main stream party politicians are stupid and they believe liars :<( XX

Or they are liars and believe stupid.

Anonymous said...

Deborah Arnott the gangsters friend.
Thing is your dealing with ,well you know gangsters now ,russian mafia oooh nasty,drug cartels eeeek,dangerous,terrorists definately one to avoid that.
I'd keep your head down a bit if I were you.
After all unlike legitimate tobacco businesses or common sense views like VGIF they dont just lobby if you know what I mean, their gangsters.
I'd go for a new identity if I were you.

Smoking Hot said...

The quantities of cigarettes/tobacco confiscated from legitimate shoppers returning every day by the UKBA are deemed smuggled. This is despite that on appeal many shoppers get them back ... the original confiscation still stands as smuggled.

The UKBA's tactics are reprehensible in achieving confiscations. They need no proof whatsoever as all they have to do is 'believe'that the goods are for a commercial purpose. The laws governing imports of duty paid excise goods for personal use are interpreted differently by any individual UKBA officer. You can have 2 UKBA officers and depending which one stops you depends on your goods being confiscated or not.

Confiscations are not the primary aim of the UKBA, disruption is. They want to frighten UK shoppers from going to the EU for their goods. Even if you do get your goods back after appeal, it will have taken you a month to do so. ln that period you would have to purchase your tobacco/cigarettes from UK shops ... not forgetting that if you used your vehicle on the ferry ... that too could be confiscated regardless of the amount of excise goods you have!

This goes on every day, day in day out, and yet you hear nothing about it from the MSM or indeed the large majority of Libertarian blogs. That in itself is a disgrace.

The UK shoppers that have been wronged and robbed (for that is what it is) are left alone and isolated. Solicitors refuse to take the case, appeals system by UKBA must be full of kangaroos and the media remain silent.

Those that dare to stand up to it are few and certainly in the minority. There are some that 'talk the talk' but when it come to 'walk the walk' are sadly absent.

Anonymous said...

"This goes on every day, day in day out, and yet you hear nothing about it from the MSM or indeed the large majority of Libertarian blogs. That in itself is a disgrace."

And that hypocrisy of the majority of "libertarian" blogs is exactly WHY the other aims and goals of the screaming "libertarians" will continue to go unnoticed, unacknowledged, remain invalidated and never come to pass into mainstream acceptance by a majority of people, the way the "libertarian" blogs who continue to ignore this glaring white elephant in the middle of the room would like their other policies to be considered and accepted.

When one continues to remain a hypocrite and continues to ignore a most basic evil that is at the root of all other evils, then no evils will ever become over-turned or defeated.

If they fail to recognize that then they will continue to not win their causes.

On the other hand, if the majority of these "libertarian" blogs were to take on and challenge the anti-smoking lobbyists and fake-charities in loud great volume, watch exactly how fast overnight the rest of the illiberal rules, laws and regulations would start becoming undone.

Undoing anti-smoking is the key, but they refuse to acknowledge it, at their own sufferance.

Pat Nurse MA said...

FT - I stand corrected! It could well be :>))

Anonymous - The only reason Govt, quangos and interested corporate partners can get at those liberties the libertarians worry about losing is because they got it first with tobacco control.

That is the template now used for all methods of social and lifestyle control.

It took 40 years to push the smoking domino over - but when it fell it took with it all of the other freedoms lined up behind.

I truly believe that freedom of choice is THE most important issue in this country from a Libertarian perspective. Fight it, win it, and Govt will back off from the rest.

Perhaps smoking is still not a "trendy" enough subject to incite some Libertarians who, perhaps, see greater dangers to fight instead.

Perhaps we all have our pet issues but for sure until we stand in strength as one on something, we will never win anything - not even the right to be left alone which I think is the thing the pro-choice movement and the Libertarians have in common.

Angry Exile said...

Smoking Hot, you may have a point about coverage of UKBA's activities, though I feel Anon is being a bit harsh. I'd say the majority of my regular reads that are either declared libertarians or seem to lean that way have bagged the anti-smoking movement in general and parts of it such as ASH in particular. I certainly don't think it's an elephant in the room that everyone ignores as Anon suggests. I don't recall saying anything about UKBA but Smoking Hot, you're doing such a good job over at Nothing 2 Declare that I have little I can add beyond the odd comment there. I haven't brought baccy into the UK for years - since before they went really crazy - and as I no longer smoke I'm not likely to in the future. My knowledge of what they get up to probably comes mostly from Nothing 2 Declare with a bit from the other blogs which have a lot to say about the anti-smoke crusade. Perhaps I'm the only one in that position but I'd be surprised. If I concentrated on smoking I'd hardly ever write anything. The last thing I blogged was basically an extended link to Snowdon's post about Arnott and her claim about smuggling.

Smoking Hot said...

l initially commented because of Arnotts ridiculous statement and followed on as to how all smokers that buy their goods abroad are classed as smugglers.

As l said before, everyone discusses smuggling but rarely, if at all, is the smokers plight when confronted by the UKBA highlighted. Smokers are persecuted at the ports. If you are a non-smoker and you are stopped and your luggage x-rayed resulting in no tobacco seen in your luggage ... thank you and goodbye and on your way you go. No searching for drugs etc ... you are free to go.

These injustices that happen daily could be eradicated almost completely very very easily. Recorded interviews, logging stop and searches where no tobacco was being carried (at the moment every trip a person takes is viewed as you purchased tobacco), a card/letter/dated showing how much you brought back stamped by UKBA. lt ain't rocket science!

So why not? Seems to me because it's now accepted that smokers are 'fair' game and have no rights. Persecution is ok if it's against smokers. Bah!

Pat Nurse MA said...

AE - I also feel SH is the expert on UKBA and it's harassment of smokers. I also think there will be more of this given Deb's hysterical outpouring so thank God he keeps on their backs.

I think we all have different specialisms, or methods of debate, that we contribute to this cause. Perhaps the only other thing we can do is link to each other's blogs more often to spread the message further.

For sure The Resistance Movement is the most tangible campaign we can take out there - when we walk down a street and see a smoker, when we stand outside with them in a pub, a cafe or a restaurant, away from a railway station platform.

The little stickers and cards are really discreet but they give a big message to both smokers and anti-smokers. Perhaps you could also put links to other libertarian, smoker friendly blogs and Smokers4Justice on the site it takes people to who visit.

Anyone who hasn't got any should get some. Is there a central point or if not can you send instructions on how to print them off - or is there a template for printing.

I think consolidating support is the first step. Then we can organise all sorts of things - including growing our own in mass numbers to further starve the anti-smoker beast of cash. Maybe then we might have some negotiating power.

What d'ya think?

Smoking Hot said...

Thanks Patsy but l'm not an expert. l'm just doing what l can as an individual. l'm still learning.

l just wish there was someone with the resources to take it further. Maybe like Dispatches, Panorama etc? All they have to do is send 'shoppers' through with excise goods and covertly record it. l did contact them but alas no reply. l'll add them to the list of MEP's, MP's etc :)

Anonymous said...

Chris Mulholland, head of BLF Wales, said: “In cars, smoking just one cigarette, even with the car window open, creates a greater concentration of second-hand smoke than a whole evening’s smoking in a pub or a bar.

Read More

Errrr, what fucking pub in Wales allows smoking then, c'mon fess up Mulholland.

And which other pubs in Wales allow children into this "smoking" pub eh?

Answers on the back of an envelope to:


Angry Exile said...

Pat, Smoking Hot, a few hours ago a comment was left at mine on a post I did before Xmas about smoking and intolerance, and in which I mentioned a bloke in Ireland who refuses to hire smokers because he thinks they're all lazy, stupid, smelly and sickly. Fella who commented today said he was considering using that company for a £50K project but has decided against because, in his own words:

"...anyone stupid enough to make comments like he did is obviously not bright enough to handle our needs.
Please pass the word so others are not tempted to employ a company led by such a cerebrally challenged individual."

Pat, it seemed to fit in nicely with what you were saying about starving the beast of cash. Not just the official mob like ASH, AlkyConcern, Salad Dodger Alert and what have you, but the useful idiots who support them. If it's got a no smoking sign up that doesn't have to be there then spend your money elsewhere with a competitor who isn't so intolerant. Doesn't matter if you don't smoke - just remember that you're just further down the list of targets. And if the no smoking sign does have to be there because the government make the poor bastards do it then consider going without.

This is something everyone who opposes the anti-smoking zealotry can do whether they themselves are smokers or not.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. ASH posts links to news stories about smuggling on its websites. And apparently that makes Deborah Arnott a liar? Just exactly where did she claim that no tobacco smuggling is occurring?

Anonymous said...

Anon 18:16

I think you’re suffering terminal arnottitis too.

Anonymous said...

Really? If Chris Snowdon wants to show the world that cigarette smuggling is increasing because of tobacco taxation, he needs to show that (a) cigarette smuggling is increasing and (b) tobacco taxation is the cause. But his post does neither of these things. All he shows is that cigarette smuggling is happening. Well hold the front page!

Of course, it may be true that smuggling is on the rise, even though Chris doesn’t (or can’t) show it. But what he definitely cannot do is prove that “sky-high tobacco taxes” are the cause of “the growth of a vast smuggling and counterfeiting industry which didn't exist until a few years ago” as he claims.

The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association’s own figures show that the tobacco taxes as a % of the recommended retail price of a pack of 20 has actually FALLEN slightly since 2001. So if smuggling has really taken off in this period, something else must be to blame.

Chris is very quick to criticise other people’s logic in the strongest terms. And he has no qualms about accusing Deborah Arnott of the ultimate sin of “lying” here. So it’s particularly hypocritical that he doesn’t think the same test of justified argument need apply to him.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 18.16.

That post sounds like Rollo Tomassi to me. Hello Rollo.

Arnott says:

""And now strong enforcement is in place there's no reason why, as the industry argues, "the volume of contraband sold on Britain's streets will rocket when excise duty goes up". Cracking down on smuggling, not cutting taxes, has brought tobacco tax fraud under control.""

Note the 'HAS' in the last sentence. There is a clear implication that people are importing tobacco unofficially (I refuse to call it smuggling since these people are performing a public service and obviating the financial imposition perpetrated by tax fraud) in very large quantities. Indeed, the stuff which Snowdon highlights from ASH website indicates that this is almost certainly true (one cannot be definite, can one?, since the nature of this importation is shadowy). I see that some poor sod has been captured by the tobacco control taliban. No doubt they will throw the book at him. On the other hand, how can it be shown that he knew about the tobacco? I would have thought that the stuff would be in a container of some sort. If they do jail him, then we have another hero in prison. Isn't ASH wonderful! Have they got their thumbscrews in stock yet? I am sure that there must be a stockist somewhere in Lybia.

Snowdon does not have to prove a thing - in fact he cannot prove a thing since, as I said, the process is, by definition, shadowy.

I read somewhere recently that the North East has the lowest smoking rate in England. will have, won't it?, with such handy ports.

But there is another thing which no one has yet mentioned, and that is collusion between port employees and importers.

I suspect that Arnott knows full well that her article is nonsense. She is just happy to see it published. Truth is irrelevant in the witch hunt. I have no doubt that the quotes from other organisations were pre-written, and probably supplied by ASH - they are just too glib and too propagandist.

So, Rollo, it may be an idea not to argue about minusculely significant arguments about the precision of who said what. That is a well known ASH TROLL trick.

Junican said...

Oh...I have just ordered my first 600 tobacco seeds. I intend to start with maybe 50 plants in the sunniest part of my garden and to tend them lovingly. If all goes well, I should have enough tobacco for most of next year. Then I will expand - all for my own personal consumption, of course.

Anonymous said...

That post sounds like Rollo Tomassi to me. Hello Rollo.

It does sound like Rollo (or a facsimile thereof). The Mass Debater is back to razzle and dazzle us with more antismoker “logic”.

Many people have seen enough. They have figured out that the antismoking mentality, legitimized by officialdom, ventures headlong into disaster chasing its delusional smokefree goal. It then denies any involvement in the disasters that typically affect those other than antismokers. And the antismokers are routinely rewarded for this disaster/denial cycle.

There was no “smuggling problem” at all just a short while ago. It then sprang-up suddenly, filling unsatisfied demand. A cheaper smuggled product is typically associated with a severely overpriced official product or prohibition of the official product. But this doesn’t fit the antismoker logic. It’s obviously something else. Maybe it’s global warming, surmises the antismoking mentality. Or an avian flu outbreak. Or, people are going to great lengths to smuggle tobacco because they had nothing better to do. We’ve had enough of the antismoking tripe!

And if it is Rollo the Mass Debater, let’s consider another well-worn antismoker tactic. Ban smoking in pubs, restaurants, etc. What’s the problem, squealed the antismokers, all the smokers have to do is step outside. Well, people are seeing through that as well. When indoor bans are established, the delusional ones proceed to the next part of a long-standing plan (Godber Blueprint), seeking outdoor bans and more. In countries around the world, smokers are being denied employment, medical treatment, and housing. Smoking bans are being instituted for open areas such as beaches, parks, malls, streets. This is the intention for the UK as well. It is intended for all countries.

The current antismoking crusade is a eugenics “extermination crusade”. Quit smoking, do as we say, declare the eugenics elite (medicos, PHers) or we’ll make life hell for you. The only question is how these demonstrably deranged minds peddling a dangerous ideology have gotten into power – again!

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX The only question is how these demonstrably deranged minds peddling a dangerous ideology have gotten into power – again! XX

Simple. Because Joe public is basically a mentaly subnormal imbecile, with less brains than a "learning dissadvataged" cucumber.

Hence the thick bastard will vote for ANYTHING that gives it a 2% income tax cut. REGARDLESS of the fact tax goes up a thousand percent on everything else. Joe publics brain can not see past his wage slip. And CERTAINLY can not cope with two concepts at once. I.e, two sorts of tax, or....

Anonymous said...

Hello Junican. Correct, it is me. No desire to go incognito. I simply couldn’t get my post to stick on the board and needed to try a few things (including removing my name and a hyperlink to the TMA website) before it did so.

You say “Snowdon does not have to prove a thing”. Maybe my moral values are different to Chris’ and yours. But if I were to accuse someone of lying, I would want to be able to prove the accusation was right before making it. And if I regularly tried to criticise others for supposed flaws in their arguments (and to be fair, Chris sometimes has a point when he does so), I’d also want to make sure I applied a higher standard of argumentation myself.

You also say we can’t be sure about how much smuggling actually occurs. I agree with that, which is one reason why Snowdon is out of line in so definitively accusing Arnott of lying.

And you ignore the other point which Snowdon failed to show, which is that “growth of a vast smuggling and counterfeiting industry which didn't exist until a few years ago” is due to tobacco taxation. But how can that be, when tobacco taxation over the years has FALLEN, according to the TMA website?

2001: 80 percent of the recommended retail price of a packet of 20 cigarettes
2003: 79 percent
2005: 78 percent
2007: 76 percent
2009: 77 percent
2011: 77 percent

Anonymous said...

So it is Rollo, the Mass Debater, master of sophistry.

O master of dimwittery, impart your pearls of antismoking wisdom, your gems of mysocapnist understanding.

Hocus Kapocus...... razzle dazzle the sensibility right out of us.

Rollo Tommasi said...

FT - Your post does not begin to justify Snowdon's claim about a “growth of a vast smuggling and counterfeiting industry which didn't exist until a few years ago”.

Chris blames taxation. But the taxes on cigarettes were as high then as they are now. So something else must be to blame.

You blame budgets. But that doesn’t justify Snowdon’s claim either. Budgets have always increased cigarette taxes for as long as I can remember.

Yes, smuggling only works when its offers fags at cheaper prices. But it was just as possible for smuggling to offer that a decade ago or even earlier. When in the last 20 years did smokers NOT think that the cost of ciggies was too high? So that doesn’t justify Snowdon’s claim either.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Two words;

"Shengen treaty".

Anonymous said...


You’re true to [deranged] form. The sojourn has not dulled your capacity for inanity: Your comments make no sense – as usual. Please continue. Your strong, obsessive desire to defend insanity provides a level of entertainment not afforded by the Sunday junk on TV.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Hello Rollo. Welcome back.

Arnott is saying that smuggling is not caused by disparities in tax. If she really believes this, she is an idiot. Since I don't think she is an idiot, she must be lying.

You don't need me to explain that raising prices increases demand for illicit products and that smuggling rises as demand rises. Can I "prove" the law of supply and demand? Probably not, but take a look at what happened in Canada in the 1990s. The situation is currently very similar in the UK and Ireland where prices are highest. Coinky-dince?

Anonymous said...

The same is happening in the USA with contraband and with cut-price tobacco legally supplied by tribal reservations. Tribal reservations had a particular level of sales. Then, the extortionate price of tobacco (comprising predominantly of tax) reaches a critical point for subgroups of smokers with each price hike – the “elastic” is broken. From that point, tribal sales have been increasing. There is also the “peeved off” factor. There may be smokers that can still technically afford the extortionate prices but choose contraband (if available) or tribal sales due to denormalization in addition to price, e.g., smoking bans and the depiction of smokers as “abnormal”. In this sense, the shift to such alternate supply is a form of protest, denying sales tax to a government that is intent on their progressive persecution and denying revenue to a tobacco industry that has become indifferent to their plight.

Anonymous said...

Rollo: When in the last 20 years did smokers NOT think that the cost of ciggies was too high?

Rollo, just out of interest, have you ever met one of the “smokers”, the [actual] persons to which we (and you) are referring? Have you brushed shoulders with “them” on equal footing, able to carry on an amicable conversation with “them” without seeming awkward in their company? Or have you observed “them” from a distance? Have you led an elitist life protected from exposure to the nouveau “lepers” and their “filthy habit”?

Don’t rush your response, Rollo. Give me time to make some popcorn.

Anonymous said...

OK, Rollo, I’ve got the popcorn. Now, do tell.

JJ said...

Anon 13.01

Of course Rollo doesn’t want to brush shoulders with smokers – why, because here is what he really thinks of anyone who smokes.

Daily Mail Online comments section.

‘The sooner all smokers just die the better for all normal members of mankind’.
25/2/2011 2:24

Rollo Tommasi said...

Thanks for responding in a way, Chris. But, not for the first time if I may say so, you don't actually deal with the points I clearly made.

You yourself say that smuggling has increased in recent years (and actually, HMRC figures would disagree with you). So your line of argument only works if tobacco taxation has similarly increased greatly in that period. In fact it hasn't, and if anything is now a slightly smaller share of the cost of a pack of 20 than it was a decade ago.

And here are some figures which may seem remarkable to you. The TMA's own website shows that the tax incidence for cigarettes in the UK is actually LESS than in more than half of EU countries. How can that be? Well, their figures show that the RRP for a pack of 20 cigarettes excluding tax is £1.46 in the UK, compared with just 90p in France, 61p in Spain and 21p in Poland.

All of which begs the questions – why do you only criticise taxes on cigarettes? Why don’t you criticise Big Tobacco for fleecing UK smokers through price gouging?

Rollo Tommasi said...

JJ - I'm sure you'll be relieved to know that I did not make the remark you quote.

Christopher Snowdon said...

As FT pointed out, consumers respond to the price, not the percentage that is tax. Whether it's 77% or 80% (a trivial difference, BTW) tax makes up the lion's share of the price and is primarily responsible for the disparity in prices between the UK and elsewhere. Arnott is denying that smuggling is caused by that disparity. That's a stupid/deceitful thing to say.

If the industry is getting £1.46 for making the cigarettes and the state is getting £5.00+ for doing nothing, I think it's pretty obvious who is doing the fleecing. How much smuggling would there be if the price of a pack of 20 was £1.46?

Rollo Tommasi said...

You're ignoring your own claim that smuggling has rapidly increased in recent years because of taxation. That claim only works if taxation rose rapidly in the meantime. It clearly didn't. And actually even your claim that smuggling has been rising in recent years is dodgy.

You ask "How much smuggling would there be if the price of a pack of 20 was £1.46?" Assuming a level playing field with no tobacco taxes across the EU, the answer would be pretty much as now. Smugglers would have a big incentive to bring in tobacco from Poland with a retail price of 21p per pack of 20.

Anonymous said...

A Ha Ha Ha Ha!!

That’s great, Rollo. Please continue.
Could you take a break around 9.00pm. There’s a program (higher entertainment value) I’d like to watch. You can continue from around 10.00pm.

Rollo, you haven’t addressed the question of whether you know any smokers – even one. Would you be prepared to meet with a group of low-income smokers to see what they think of your “assessment”? Would you be prepared to leave your fantasy world for an encounter with actuality? Maybe you could bring Deb along. She could certainly do with a dose of actuality.

Rollo Tommasi said...

As an aside, I find this debate quite interesting. I had thought your concerns lay with the interests of the little smoker who doesn't want to quit.

In fact, it seems you're more interested in defending the tobacco industry and attacking ASH at any opportunity. If you really cared about the interests of these smokers, you would be quick to complain about the outrageous differentials in cigarette prices before tax across the EU. How can they justify charging 60% more in the UK than France, and almost 2.5 times more than in Spain???

Anonymous said...

your concerns lay with the interests of the little smoker who doesn't want to quit.

We are concerned. It doesn’t matter if they’re short or tall.

How can they justify charging 60% more in the UK

Rollo, who do you think the “they” are? We’ll give you 8 guesses. Ahhh! What the heck, it’s Sunday. Have 12 guesses.

Anonymous said...

Strike that last question, Rollo. I can now follow what you’re saying. And, yes, what you’re saying is perverse as usual.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Taxation *has* risen sharply in the last ten years. It's risen substantially just in the last two years. The price of a premium brand in 2001 was - roughly, I can't be bothered going into it now - about £4.50. It is now £6.70. As price rises, more and more people will seek to buy cigarettes more cheaply. I doubt there would be much smuggling if the price was £1.46, even with prices being cheaper elsewhere in Europe. So long as people feel the price is fair and affordable, demand for contraband is not great. There was very little smuggling in the 1950s for that reason.

Smuggling will rise when people feel they are being ripped off and/or can simply not afford to pay the official price. Fewer people felt that way ten or twenty years ago because cigarettes were less expensive. Even more people will dabble in the illicit trade if the price goes to £8 or £10. Everyone has a breaking point. This is the basic point that Arnott is flatly denying.

My 'concern', such as it is, relates to what she said in that article. You're the one who seems to think I should be outraged by the base price of cigarettes being higher in the UK than in Poland (largely a result of relative labour costs and overheads, I would have thought). While the tax rate is £5 a pack, people can justifiably feel more ripped off by the government than by the industry. (BTW, the base price of brands like Pall Mall must be much lower than the figures you're giving.)

Anonymous said...

Forty years ago, I had three children to bring up. I smoked and I drank. Thirty years ago, the same still applied. And so also, twenty years ago. The prices that I was paying for tobacco and alcohol did not figure very much.

What has been changing very rapidly over the last fifteen years or so has been the very rapid escalation in demands upon our income. Examples (water charges, house prices, council tax, gadgets?) will readily occur.

Only recently, a police chief went into print saying that alcohol was too cheap as compared with the proportion of income many years ago. That may be true, but is comparing apples and pears.

Many of us are now questioning the value which we receive for what we pay. "£6 for a packet of fags! I can get them for £1.50 in (wherever)" "Fifteen pounds for a bottle of whiskey! Are you mad! I can get..."

Cheap air travel has enabled us take advantage of what we now know to be true - that Government has been ripping us of with their duties since God knows when.

Off to the pub for a beer now......not be long - don't like paying £3 for a pint and having to go outside of an almost empty pub to have a smoke.

Rollo Tommasi said...

Chris: You say “Smuggling will rise when people feel they are being ripped off and/or can simply not afford to pay the official price.” I recall people feeling exactly that way 10 or even 20 years ago. They weren’t thinking “Wow, prices might be high now but at least they’re not as high as they will be in 2011”. You’re the one who’s claiming there has been a “growth of a vast smuggling and counterfeiting industry which didn't exist until a few years ago”. That’s not explained by prices being a bit higher now than 10 years ago.

You state “Arnott is flatly denying” that demand for the illicit trade will increase as prices of legitimate products rise. I think you’re misrepresenting her. Smuggling requires demand and supply. Your argument only takes account of the demand side, not supply. Arnott’s argument focuses on supply – and the increasing success customs authorities are apparently having in stemming the amount of illicit tobacco being made available for sale.

As for your reticence to criticise poor little Big Tobacco…… You try to explain your way to justify price differentials by referring to “relative labour costs and overheads”. Well that is certainly true – to an extent. But it does not explain why the base price of a pack of 20 in the UK is SEVEN times higher than in Poland, nor why it is over 60% higher than in France and almost 150% higher than in Spain.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Your "figures" only prove that custome are catching fewer "smugglers". When I lived in Bathgate, there was not ONE bloody person on out scheme, that bought fags in a shop.

Every one of them smoked was from the "market".

And the guys on the market went from bringing a couple of M+S shopping bags per week, through customs, to buying TWO bastarding transits to carry the stuff.

BUT, if they had been caught, it was STILL only "five cases of smuggling" in the court. The same as it would have been had they been caught with two shopping bags.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Looks like we're going to have to agree to differ on this, old bean.

In the world I live in, smuggled tobacco has never been more widespread, taxes have never been higher and Arnott wrote an article saying "it wasn't disparities in tax that led to the growth in smuggling." In your world, Arnott didn't say that, smuggling is has nothing to do with tax, taxes and smuggling are both falling and the real villain is Big Tobacco for making up 20% of the RRP.

Never the twain...

Furor Teutonicus said...

IF smuggling is falling, it is the fact they are catching fewer.

The availability of smuggled tobacco all over Europe shows that.

Ten years ago you could get it, if you knew where to go. NOW every railway station in Berlin has their "dealer".

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Rollo is right about base prices, but the general principle that both high prices and differential prices encourage smuggling is surely true. Apparently the Danes have lowered duty to combat smuggling.
First, if cigs cost £1 in country A and £2 in the UK, there won't much smuggling because most people are happy paying £2. But if the figures are £3 and £6, there will be smuggling, as £42 per week is a lot of money to most people and £3 per packet is a lot of money to most criminals. This is why an aquaintance of mine started to buy European Golden Virginia. The retail price in Europe is £4.17. The UK duty is £6.47 and vat is charged on top of the duty, so duty plus vat on duty is £7.60. The price in the UK (this is a reliable unbroken supply) is £8.50. This is a saving of £3.50 off the UK duty paid price of £12.75.

Here's some history I found on Does it match up with what Rollo is claiming?

"Price check (June 2007). Fancy that! People moan that things are not what they use to be. However if you consider that Golden Virginia cost £1.80 in Belgium in 1998 and in the United Kingdom it cost £7.80, that equals a saving of £6.00 a packet (50 grams). In 2007 the Belgium price has risen to £3.15, and in England it is now £10.66. The saving is now £7.51 a packet.

With cigarettes the saving has actually widened even more. In 1998 Marlboro cost £1.91 in Belgium in 1998 and in the United Kingdom it cost £3.36, that equals a saving of £1.45 a packet. In 2007 the Belgium price has risen to £2.90, and in England it is now £5.31. The saving is now £2.41 a packet"

So, Belgian GV has increased from
£1.80 in 1998 to £4.17 in 2011 (x2.32). UK GV has increased from £7.80 to £12.75 (x1.63).
We see that in percentage terms, Belgian GV has increased by more, probably because until recently emerged, there was virtually no duty. However, the gap between the Belgian and UK prices has increased from £6 to £8.58. It is the price gap which is important. That is why is writing about it. Think of day trippers as legal smugglers.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Rollo, ye troubadour of Tripe®, defender of Arnott-upon-Ash. See if you can wake up a few neurons to consider this information.

www (dot) cnbc (dot) com/id/41785506

Angry Exile said...

More from Down Under in The Age today with claims being made that the high tax here has been accompanied by a 25% in illicit smokes. Okay, that's the CEO of Philip Morris saying that, but he's not the only one saying illegal trade has increased.
"Data published by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service does show an increase in tobacco smuggling in 2009-10, a year that includes two months of the stiff rise in cigarette taxes. Detection of illicit tobacco totalled 310,707 kilograms last financial year, nearly double the 175,405 kilograms detected in 2008-09. More than 68.72 million cigarettes were detected, up from 50.177 million the year before."

Even Arnott's opposite number down here concedes the point, though she still thinks the extra tax will make up for it.
"Fiona Sharkie, executive director of Quit Victoria, said a rise in illicit trade was expected when the tax was increased, but this would pale in comparison against the revenue raised."

Personally I think she's dreaming.

Incidentally, Snowdon, some interesting comment on the plain packaging plan in that article too.

Christopher Snowdon said...

Thanks AE,

Out of interest, where do most smuggle cigs come from into Australia?


Angry Exile said...

As Australia used to grow tobacco commercially I'd assumed that most of it was locally grown chop chop rather than manufactured cigarettes, but one of those articles suggested that these days the majority of illegal tobacco is smuggled in from Indonesia. No idea what the preferred means is but even if the ports and airports were absolutely watertight just looking at a map shows that between Perth and Darwin is a stretch of several thousand kilometres of mostly uninhabited coastline for anyone starting out from Indonesia wanting to bring anything ashore. I'm sure an eye is kept on the most likely spots but it seems like an awfully big task to watch all of it.

And even if they can prevent all smuggling there's still the chop chop. The bottom line is that if Aussies want to smoke they'll always be able to no matter what the government do to the price. As for plain packaging, since there's already a display ban and the cigs are all under the counter or in cupboards - or at least it is here in Victoria and I know it is in NSW and the ACT - what the hell's the point?

Oh, this'll give you a giggle - VIC exempted tobacco shops from the display ban on the basis that it's a tobacconist and the front door does an equivalent job. The ACT did not, so when you go into a tobacconist in the nation's capital you're greeted by rows of plain cupboard doors to hide the cigarettes from casual view, even though casual viewers who don't want cigarettes wouldn't have entered the shop in the first place.