Points of View: Tobacco Tax Will Hit Worst Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Clark

IT has been argued by anti- smoking campaigners that cigarettes are more affordable than they were 40 years ago.

It may be true that many people are better off but to use that argument to justify a further increase in tobacco taxation in next week's Budget is obscene.

UK smokers already pay more tax than in any other country (up to 89 per cent on a packet of 20 cigarettes). High taxation on tobacco hits the elderly and the less well-off the hardest. It also encourages smuggling which, in turn, increases overall consumption because of the sheer volume of cheap tobacco that is available throughout the country.

Official figures show a revenue loss of pounds 3.5 billion due to tobacco smuggling in 2000-1, a figure that doesn't include the additional cost to the taxpayer of more Customs officials and scanning equipment.

This is money that could otherwise be spent improving public services. …