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Tobacco smuggling blighting North-East corner shops
ONE in five of the North-East’s corner shops are under threat from lost sales due to tobacco smuggling and cross-border shipping, new figures have revealed.
A survey by the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) found the number of the region’s corner shops suffering from tobacco smuggling had risen from last year, when only one in eight shops were under threat.
The survey also found that four in ten corner shop owners have considered reducing staff due to lost sales.
John Abbott, a Darlington shopkeeper and the North-East spokesman for the TRA, said: “These results show that tobacco smuggling is not only a threat to the livelihoods of independent retailers but one that continues to worsen.
“The high levels of tax on tobacco mean that a smuggler selling at half the price I charge will make more money selling his tobacco here than almost anywhere else in the EU.
“The government needs to allow tax levels in the other member countries to catch up with those in the UK so that smugglers do not see the UK as the most profitable place to ply their illegal trade.”
The EU is currently considering whether to ban large ranges of tobacco products from retailers’ shelves, including packs of cigarettes under 20, packs of loose tobacco under 40gms, menthol cigarettes and ‘slim’ cigarettes, as well as dramatically increasing the size of health warnings.
Mr Abbott said: “If the EU bans these products, it will play in to the hands of the smugglers who will happily be able to provide them to anyone that wishes, no matter what their age.
“This will affect the livelihoods of independent retailers across the UK and ensure that the criminal activity of tobacco smuggling blights our communities for years to come.”
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