Cheaper smuggled cigarettes killing more people than drugs

October 10th, 2008 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 10 (IANS) Tobacco smuggling causes around 4,000 premature deaths a year or four times the number of fatalities caused by the use of all smuggled illegal drugs put together, but the UK government is not doing enough to tackle the problem, said experts.Robert West from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre (HBRC) and colleagues argued that more smokers would quit if cigarettes cost more, but at around half the price, smuggled tobacco is keeping the prices down.

Around 21 percent of all tobacco smoked in the UK is smuggled into the country. If there were no smuggling, the price of legal tobacco would increase by around 12 percent.

According to the authors of the study, this would lead to five to eight percent of smokers kicking the habit - saving at least 4,000 lives a year.

A reduction in tobacco smuggling would also help reduce health inequalities because low income smokers are more likely to use smuggled tobacco and they are also more likely to quit because of price increases, according to HBRC release.

While the authors acknowledge that tobacco smuggling has reduced considerably since the government’s ‘Tackling Tobacco Smuggling’ strategy was announced in 2000, they argue that more needs to be done and call for more action and resources to tackle the problem.

For example, the UK government has not followed the lead of all the other European Union countries and has failed to sign up to legally enforceable agreements with the two tobacco companies, Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International, to ensure that they tightly control and regulate distribution and stop supplying contractors involved in smuggling.

The report appeared in the British Medical Journal.

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