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Thursday, February 13, 2003
The end of tobacco advertising

Not before time, Airstrip One is about to be rendered free from this form of 'free speech': tobacco advertising becomes illegal today. But curbs on advertising are only the beginning.

I look at it this way: were I to walk into a public room and spray a cancer-inducing substance around the place I would, quite properly, be arrested for assault or something worse. I regard people who smoke in my presence as committing assault. It is about time to extend the ban to all public places as the British Medical Association recommends.

Now, if people really want to smoke, despite the irrefutable evidence about the habit's harmful effects, the activity should only take place in private between consenting adults. The rest of the public should not be subject to the by-products of such weakmindedness.

For the record. I gave up smoking in 1903, finding it a most revolting habit. Quitting caused me no problem whatsoever - I cannot think why I did not give it up sooner.

With appropriate use of taxation, the habit should be taxed out of existence. This causes a slight problem - much UK tobacco is already smuggled into the country having first been made into cigarettes by UK companies. The cigarettes are exported to warehouses in mainland Europe and then smuggled back. The manufacturers claim no knowledge of this process but such ignorance is difficult to accept: the brands exported in the first place are those with little or no market outside the UK.

When smuggled cigarettes are found in this country, customs officers destroy them. While this seems superficially acceptable, it does nothing to deter the participating manufacturers; by this time, they have made their profit.

I recommend the prompt introduction of legislation that would force the manufacturers to cooperate in the fight against smuggling. When smuggled cigarettes are found, HM Customs, instead of destroying the cigarettes, should compel the manufacturers to buy back the offending items at twice the UK retail price, tax included.

You can read more about the problem, but not the solution, here. Now you may think that a bit out of date but Private Eye currently reports
Earlier in January, the UK Commons public accounts committee produced a report revealing that more illegal smuggled cigarettes of Imperial [Tobacco] brands were sold in Britain than were sold legitimately. They said billions of cigarettes were being exported to tiny markets such as Andorra and Kaliningrad to ensure they would come back to Britain illegally. The MPs also accused Imperial of being "reluctant" to help customs investigations.
Implementing Josh's proposal might help them to co-operate, mightn't it?

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