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February 16th, 2008:

Britain May Introduce Permits To Buy Cigarettes

16 Feb, 2008, 0740 hrs IST, PTI – The Economic Times

LONDON: Smokers in Britain may soon need a permit worth 10 pounds to buy cigarettes.

Health England, the government’s health advisory body, has suggested introducing the permit without which no one would be allowed to buy cigarettes.

“The scheme would make a big difference to the number of people giving up smoking,” Chairman of the advisory body Julian Le Grand told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The cash raised by the proposed scheme would go to the National Health Scheme,” Le Grand, an ex-adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said.

But smokers’ rights group, Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking (FOREST), described the idea as “outrageous”, given the high prices smokers already pay.

Le Grand said the idea is that inconvenience in getting a permit – as well as the cost – would deter people from persisting with the smoking habit.

“You’ve got to get a form, the government’s good at complex forms; you have got to get a photograph. It’s a little bit of a problem to actually do it, so you have got to make a conscious decision every year to opt in to being a smoker,” he said.

About 70 per cent of smokers actually want to stop smoking. So if you just make it that little bit more difficult for them to actually re-start or even to start in the first place, yes I think it will make a big difference, he added.

A Department of Health spokesperson did not rule out such a scheme as part of the next wave of tobacco regulation.

She said: “We will be consulting later this year on the next steps on tobacco control. Ministers are seeking input from a whole range of stakeholders.”

Tobacco Groups (Could) Face Fines Over Contraband

By Frances Williams in Geneva – The Financial Times

Published: February 16 2008 02:00 | Last updated: February 16 2008 02:00

Tobacco companies could be made responsible for clamping down on cigarette smuggling, with stiff financial penalties for failure, under proposed guidelines for a new global treaty to tackle the multi-billion dollar illicit trade in tobacco products.

The trade is estimated to deprive national exchequers worldwide of $40bn-$50bn (£20bn-£25bn) in lost taxes every year and undermines the drive to raise cigarette prices, which experts say is the single most effective way of deterring people from smoking, especially the young.

At the end of a week of negotiations in Geneva involving about 130 countries, delegates said yesterday there was broad agreement to require companies to track and trace tobacco products from manufacture to point of sale and fine them if contraband is seized.

The proposals are modelled on an existing agreement between 26 of the 27 European Union countries (excluding the UK) and two tobacco companies, Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International, that has already led to a big decline in cigarette seizures in the EU.

The negotiations, conducted under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, marked the first step towards a legally binding protocol on illicit tobacco trade under the WHO’s 152-member Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which took effect in 2005.

Other measures envisaged for the protocol, scheduled for adoption in 2010, include strengthened international co-operation to prosecute smuggling gangs, tougher penalties for offenders and better law enforcement, and help for poorer countries to put the measures into effect.

Ian Walton-Georges of the EU’s anti-fraud office, who chaired the negotiations, said he planned to draft a protocol that was “practical, effective and strong” ahead of a second round of negotiations later this year.

The Framework Convention Alliance, a coalition of some 300 anti-tobacco groups, says the global illicit trade – dominated by organised criminal gangs – may have amounted to nearly 11 per cent of total sales, or 600bn cigarettes, in 2006.

Contraband trade is particularly rife in Russia and other countries in eastern Europe, in Latin America, and especially Brazil, and in Africa and the Middle East.