European Commission targets smokers and smugglers
Smoking is one of the main causes of death in Europe. Therefore it is essential that more people give up the habit, the European Commission says, suggesting the raising of cigarette taxes by six percent. That might not seem much, but for many countries the consequences of such a measure could be major. By Matthijs Nieuwenhuis*
Research shows that every time the prices of cigarettes go up, people quit smoking. At a ten percent price increase, four percent of smokers kick the habit. European Commissioner László Kovács from Hungary argues that taxes should go up from 57 to 63 percent at least.
Lighting up is a lot cheaper in Eastern Europe than in the western EU countries. Smokers in Poland, for example, pay less then 78 euros for 1000 cigarettes. In the Netherlands the same quantity costs 231 euros. Tobacco is most expensive in Great Britain, where smokers pay up to 405 euros.
There's also quite a huge price difference between ready-made cigarettes and rolling tobacco. The number of Europeans smoking cigarettes may have gone down by ten percent, but at the same time the use of rolling tobacco has gone up by ten percent. Therefore Brussels intends to level the prices of ready-made cigarettes and fine-cut tobacco for self-made cigarettes.
(Smoking is one of the main causes of death in Europe. Photo: Mark Chatterley)Smuggling
European Commissioner László Kovács points out that the wide range of prices leads to smuggling on a large scale. Also, people look for opportunities to buy their cigarettes abroad. The problem of smuggling is especially evident at the EU's outer borders. In Serbia and Ukraine tobacco is incredibly cheap, which makes it extremely important to guard the borders, thus preventing large amounts of cigarettes being smuggled into the EU.
In the end the plan is to make smoking so outrageously expensive that people simply have to quit. Statistics from the European Commission show that prices are going up in nearly all EU countries. In the Netherlands the increase is ten percent, while in Hungary smokers are paying thirty percent more. However, Poland is the worst off with a 46 percent price increase. Cigarette prices in the UK, Germany, France and Ireland are already so high that the proposed measure is expected not to have any effect there.
*RNW translation (mp)
19 July 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands]