MORE than seven in 10 UK smokers are buying tobacco from non-shop sources according to the most recent research published by industry body the Tobacco Manufacturers Association.
The non-shop tobacco includes illicit tobacco, tobacco brought in from abroad for legal personal consumption, tobacco products bought online and other types of non-shop products.
The TMA reckons around 20% of tobacco consumed in the UK avoids UK tobacco duty and VAT. And it sees losses to the exchequer as a result as second only to general VAT avoidance.
The highest proportion of non-shop-bought tobacco use is said to be in London and the south-east of England.
However that appears to be because those are very high population areas. Spending per head on non-shop-bought tobacco is said to be high in Scotland.
“Approximately 12% of smokers spend £20 or more per week on ‘non-shop’ products across the UK,” a TMA statement said.
“This varies heavily between regions. 19% of Scottish smokers spend £20 or more on ‘non-shop’ tobacco products, whereas only 9% do so in Wales. The proportion for smokers in other regions falls somewhere in between.
“The average national price for illicit cigarettes (pack of 20) is £4.11. However, there is considerable variation in price between the regions of the UK. The lowest average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes is £3.79 (Yorkshire & Humberside) while the highest is £4.69 (London).
“The average national price for an illicit pouch of roll your own (RYO) tobacco (50g) is £6.88. Once again, however, there is considerable variation between regions. The lowest average price of a 50g pouch of RYO £6.55 (West Midlands) and the highest is £7.14 (East of England).
“The survey shows that the Government’s tax policy does not have the support of smokers. 84% of smokers think tobacco prices are too high and a majority of UK smokers turn a blind eye to the sale of untaxed tobacco with 58% claiming it was ‘none of their business’,” said the TMA statement.
The organisation’s director general Giles Roca said high taxes had shifted consumer behaviour to buying from non UK duty-paid and illegal sources.
“With new EU legislation set to ban small packs by May 2017 the fact that 80% of the illegal cigarettes cost less than £5 will be a concern for UK retailers,” he said.
“We also know that the problem is getting worse, unsurprisingly when tax on tobacco continues to rise each year.
“And it’s getting more sophisticated, buying tobacco on the internet has grown significantly, for example.”