From: Lynn News
A LYNN newsagent is calling on the Government to crack down on cigarette smuggling to save the country’s corner shops.
Graham Walker says he has lost about £800 a week over the last five years due to the illegal tobacco trade.
A survey by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance has found that 20 per cent of corner shops in the East of England are under threat due to lost sales resulting from smuggling.
Mr Walker is keen to stress that Walkers News, in Norfolk Street, is not facing closure but is demanding a Government clamp down.
He says that his tobacco sales have gone down over the last five years and has even been asked by customers for counterfeit products.
Mr Walker said: “In the years to come we could lose corner shops if they don’t clamp down on this.
“For me £800 is a large percentage of my turnover. For Tesco and Sainsbury’s it is nothing. But for a small shop it has a big effect.
“And it is not just the effect on corner shops. What people don’t understand is that the country is losing tax revenue of up to £3 billion a year – how many hospitals would that pay for?”
The problems are caused by people bringing home a suitcase of cigarettes from holidays along with lethal counterfeit products from the Far East and Eastern Europe.
Mr Walker also feels that Government plans to introduce plain cigarette packets will make life easier for the counterfeiters.
He also believes high taxation in the UK is encouraging smuggling.
Mr Walker said: “The UK is such a hotspot for smuggling because the high tax on tobacco makes it one of the most profitable places in the world for criminals to carry out their trade. The Government needs to allow tax levels in other countries in Europe to catch up and come more in to line with the UK.”
He feels that the Government should be investing in Trading Standards and Customs and Excise to stop these products from getting onto UK shores.
He said: “Trading Standards work very hard with very limited resources.
“And when the smugglers are caught the penalties need to be strict.”