The other night, I picked up a beermat in the pub asking the question “Why is illegal tobacco so easy to get hold of?” I would have thought that qualified as an entry-level question for a CSE in the Bleeding Obvious, but on the reverse it says “More and more criminals see it as an easy way to make some cash. But what else are they selling?” Cheap imported booze, hopefully.
It’s now reckoned that between 33 and 40% of all tobacco products sold in the UK are either smuggled or legal personal imports. Raising tobacco duty by 50p for a pack of 20 is only likely to increase that percentage, and potentially lead to less government revenue. Extortionate duty encourages smuggling as surely as night follows day. How many people now would feel any sense of moral outrage about tobacco smuggling? As Kipling wrote:
Five and twenty ponies trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by !