ACS calls for cross Government tobacco control strategy

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ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has welcomed the renewed Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy published today, but has called for a more integrated approach to Government tobacco control policy.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Customs agents are doing a good job of detecting large consignments of illegal, smuggled and counterfeit tobacco coming into the UK. We welcome the increased investment and new penalties for traffickers and larger suppliers announced today.

“In particular we welcome the decision to reduce the indicative levels for cross border tobacco purchases, a measure we have called for consistently. This will help to better detect and deter individuals that abuse the EU rules to sell on tobacco bought in other parts of Europe.”

In ‘Tackling Tobacco Smuggling: Building on Success,’ Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) have set out a range of new initiatives to tackle tobacco smuggling. These include:

  • Increasing criminal intelligence and investigation resources by 20%
  • New penalties – especially in asset recovery for those convicted of selling non-duty paid goods.
  • Reducing the indicative levels for duty free tobacco products to 800 cigarettes and 1kg rolling to
  • Closer working protocol with trading standards

Lowman said: “The strategy must go further encompassing more of Government than customs policy. The Illicit tobacco trade thrives on the streets of our most deprived communities and it is at this level that customs strategy is at its weakest.

“Illicit tobacco has implications for health, crime and treasury revenue, so we need a new integrated enforcement strategy that fully involves, HMRC, the Police, Trading Standards and the wider community.  We are also calling for a suite of new penalties against the dealers on the streets.

“Until Ministers stop thinking that this a problem solely of duty evasion and about preventing smuggling across our borders we will not see real change on the streets of our most deprived communities.”