Government ads to tackle tobacco but not alcohol smuggling

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Related tags: Smuggling

The government last week explained why it is spending millions of pounds on a new advertising campaign against cigarette smuggling while doing...

The government last week explained why it is spending millions of pounds on a new advertising campaign against cigarette smuggling while doing nothing new to stop illegal alcohol imports.

A series of ads under the slogan "Don't be Blind to the Crime" is to cost £3million over the next six months.

Paymaster-general Dawn Primarolo told journalists last week that tobacco smuggling was a "crime issue, not a duty issue".

But asked why there was no similar campaign on alcohol smuggling, she said: "The figures show that tobacco smuggling costs us more."

She pointed out that tobacco smugglers faced severe penalties and were robbing the British public of money for essential public services.

And she added that 100 tonnes of cigarettes had been seized by Customs & Excise in the last month alone — part of a haul of 750million sticks captured since the start of the year.

Licensees are to receive packs of beermats which emphasise the criminal nature of smuggling and the penalties involved. There will also be poster ads in pub toilets.

Brewers welcomed the initiative but called for action to tackle alcohol smuggling.

Stuart Neame, deputy chairman of the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, said: "Customs appears to have lost all interest in beer bootlegging because cigarettes are causing a greater loss to the Treasury at the current time. However, more than a million pints of beer a day are still coming across the Channel and it seems appaling that Customs is not concerned about the very serious impact this is having on the brewing and pub retailing industry."

The government's strategy, said Primarolo, was based on a report published in March which said tobacco smuggling dwarfed alcohol smuggling.

She said strong action was being taken already on illicit alcohol trade. "Our X-ray machines don't just see cigarettes — they also see alcohol." She said more scanners would arrive at ports this year, paid for by a special £209million budget.

The campaign will aim to demonise cigarette smugglers as hardened criminals. Some of those caught so far already had convictions for manslaughter, arson, heroin trafficking and assault.

Related topics: Legislation

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