BFM reports on an increase in the number of robberies of tobacco shops in France following recent tobacco excise increases. Between January 2017 and January 2018, the number of thefts from tobacconists increased by 7%. €407,400 of cigarettes were stolen in January 2018, compared with €350,500 worth last year. Some tobacconists interviewed said that they had to implement extra security measures to protect themselves against thieves. One tobacconist who now serves customers from behind a secure window says that ongoing excise increases on cigarettes mean they are “worth gold” to criminals.
Reckless increases in excise on tobacco products undermine government revenues by leading to increases in illegal trade. The recent experience of tobacconists in France shows that this rise in criminality is not limited to smuggling, but also directly impacts retailers of tobacco, who are more likely to be victims of violent crime. This is a predictable outcome of a policy that has been repeatedly been shown to fuel illegal trade in tobacco.
ESTA Secretary General Peter van der Mark said “It is a cruel irony that while the EU is on the one hand pushing through an overly complex and costly system for tracking legal tobacco products, Member States are at the same time introducing policies which increase criminal activity against sellers of tobacco. France is providing more evidence that reckless tax policy fuels illegal tobacco trade. Small business owners are being forced to pay the price for the failure of their political leaders.”