The Grocer reports this week that the UK Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for tougher sanctions and closer collaboration to tackle illicit alcohol and tobacco trade. The ACS said illicit trade has hit the convenience sector by undercutting prices and driving footfall away from stores, thereby harming local businesses and putting local jobs at risk.
Tougher enforcement and better coordination between law enforcement agencies is essential to effectively tackle illicit trade. Equally important, however, is a complementary tax policy which addresses illegal trade at source. Such a holistic policy approach requires cooperation between different arms of the state, with law enforcement and tax collecting authorities not working in silo. Smart tobacco tax policy should be seen as another tool in the fight by law enforcement authorities to keep illegal tobacco products off Europe’s streets, and as such fiscal policymakers must see themselves as an inseparable part of this fight.
ESTA Secretary General Peter van der Mark said: “Illicit tobacco puts consumers at risk and undermines government revenues, but it also has effects which are detrimental to many other groups in society. This call by the ACS demonstrates how important preventing illegal tobacco trade is for small retailers, and how black market trade erodes their revenues. Stricter enforcement is needed as part of a holistic public policy approach, one which also incorporates smart tax policy to cut off the main drivers of illegal tobacco trade at source. Only through sensible policy can we protect both customers and retailers alike from the dangers of illicit trade.”