Paris moves to stub out Tabacs rebellion

14th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 13 (AFP) - Fearful of the political fall-out from this year's dramatic increase in cigarette prices, the French government on Thursday unveiled measures to reassure the country's tobacconists who say they face falling income and a growing threat of violent assault. Seen as a key group of opinion-formers - many also run a cafe alongside their cigarette business - the 34,000 licensed "buralistes" staged their first ever one-day strike last month in protest against price-hikes that will make Franc

PARIS, Nov 13 (AFP) - Fearful of the political fall-out from this year's dramatic increase in cigarette prices, the French government on Thursday unveiled measures to reassure the country's tobacconists who say they face falling income and a growing threat of violent assault.
 
Seen as a key group of opinion-formers - many also run a cafe alongside their cigarette business - the 34,000 licensed "buralistes" staged their first ever one-day strike last month in protest against price-hikes that will make France one of Europe's most expensive countries for smokers.

Arguing that the growing cost of cigarettes is encouraging smuggling and cross-border shopping, tobacconists also say a spate of break-ins shows they are increasingly a target as a result of the rising value of their goods.

Visiting an outlet in the Paris suburb of Alfortville which was recently burgled, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy announced a 25 percent increase in grants available for installing security equipment, as well as a new police liaison programme.

He also said there would be tougher action to clamp down on smugglers and on clandestine vendors. On Tuesday police rounded up 150 people in a high-profile operation against illicit sales in a poor neighbourhood of Paris.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin held talks with tobacconists' leader Rene Lepage and announced a "contract for the future" designed to ensure the survival of the trade. It proposes the examination of new functions for "buralistes" - who also sell tax and postage stamps - as well as an initiative to harmonise European tobacco taxes.

After a third price rise in a year on January 1, an average packet of 20 cigarettes will have gone up from EUR 3.6 to EUR 5.5 (from USD 4.2 to USD 6.4), making France considerably more expensive than neighbouring countries such as Spain and Luxembourg.

With regional and elections looming next year, commentators have warned the government that the growing cost of cigarettes may alienate many of France's 20 million smokers and could help win votes for the far-right National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

© AFP


Subject: French news









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