TMA welcomes new approach to tackling tobacco smuggling

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The Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) has welcomed the opportunity to participate in a summit on the illicit tobacco market, which took place in London today, 31 January 2011.

Mark Garnier MP, Treasury Select Committee member, said: “I welcome the thoughts and contributions of many stakeholders attending today’s summit on illicit trade. The cost to the taxpayer of this tax evasion, as well as small businesses in particular, must not be tolerated. The summit will help the Government in ensuring these businesses remain not just viable but successful and that the British taxpayer does not lose out on revenue which is important in the battle to fix our broken economy.”

At the summit, hosted by think-tank Progressive Vision, an audience of government and law enforcement officials, retailers, manufacturers and other key stakeholders explored measures for a new and co-ordinated approach to tackling and raising awareness of tobacco smuggling.

The latest adult smokers’ survey revealed, during this period of economic uncertainty, 30% of cigarette smokers and 45% of hand rolled tobacco smokers admit they don’t always buy their tobacco products from UK shops:

·         Around 45% of adult smokers are aware of smuggled tobacco being sold in their area but only 10% of those who are aware have reported it to the authorities in the past 12 months

·         More than 20% of adult smokers are considering purchasing tobacco from non-retail sources, such as friends and street sellers, compared to 4.5% who are less likely

·         Over 60% of those polled believe tobacco smuggling will worsen over the next 12 months

·         Over 60% of adult smokers agree imposing higher fines on rogue retailers who sell illicit products is an effective method of tackling the issue

Christopher Ogden, TMA chiefxecutive, said: “The survey clearly shows many smokers are aware of the vibrant market in illicit tobacco. A major concern is the criminals making these sales don’t care whom they sell to and as a result many under the legal age gain access to illicit tobacco. Smugglers are innovative and relentless at finding new ways to infiltrate the market and we welcomed the Coalition Government’s recent announcement of additional funding to tackle tax evasion. The tobacco industry has been fully committed to tackling this problem for many years and the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the TMA’s member companies and HMRC have created a comprehensive framework for co-operation.

“More recently we have provided anti-counterfeit technology to enable law enforcement bodies to readily identify whether tobacco products are genuine or not. As an industry we continue to fully support HM Revenue & Customs, UK Border Agency and Trading Standards in their enforcement activity against tobacco smuggling. Today’s summit has provided a platform for closer co-operation between all stakeholders in the future.”