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MPs: HMRC efforts over tobacco smuggling 'farcical'

The Commons home affairs select committee has suggested that HM Revenue and Customs and the Border Force should do more to tackle historic cases and ongoing cases of tobacco smuggling.

We are worried that not enough is being done by the Government and its appropriate agencies to combat the problem of tobacco smuggling at source.

We urge the members of HMRC and Border Force set up firm relationships with their counterparts in countries such as Malaysia. This will ensure that intelligence and best practice is shared.

...It is astonishing that no UK tobacco manufacturer has ever been fined for oversupply of products to high-risk overseas markets, and that only one statutory warning letter has been issued.

The penalties available are too weak and enforcement too rare. We find it farcical that a respected enforcement agency such as HMRC has not imposed tougher punishments on those over-supplying overseas markets.

We recommend that HMRC publish a clear set of criteria setting out the circumstances in which it would normally impose a fine and that an immediate review be taken against all historic and ongoing cases against this criteria in order to ensure those who have committed an offence do not go unpunished.

– Commons home affairs select committee

Ministers attack 'lack of action' over tobacco smuggling

The Government's efforts to tackle tobacco smuggling have been branded "farcical" by the Commons home affairs select committee.

MPs have complained of a 'farcical' lack of action against tobacco manufacturers. Credit: PA

Their investigation said illicit cigarettes smoked in the UK rose by 49% to a billion in 2012 and described failures in dealing with the issue "a matter of grave concern".

The committee noted that not one firm had been fined for deliberately oversupplying cigarettes to high-risk markets so they can be smuggled back to the UK.

British taxpayers lose out on around £2 billion in unpaid duty because of the illegal trade.

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E-cigarettes 'could save hundreds of millions of lives'

E-cigarettes have the potential to save "hundreds of millions of lives" by cutting smoking rates, a group of scientists have claimed in a letter to the World Health Organisation.

The experts want to make sure e-cigarettes are not classified in the same way as tobacco products such as cigarettes.

Such a move could lead to restrictive measures including higher taxes, bans on e-cigarette advertising and restrictions on their use in public places.

Their letter reads: "These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century - perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted."

Scientists urge WHO not to clamp down on e-cigarettes

A group of 53 leading scientists has written to the World Health Organisation (WHO) urging the body not to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

The experts say e-cigarettes are "part of the solution" in the fight against smoking-related diseases and their use should not be discouraged.

The scientists say health policymakers should not be trying to restrict the use of e-cigarettesl Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Leaked documents from a WHO meeting suggest the organisation sees e-cigarettes as a "threat" and wants them bracketed along with other products containing nicotine, including regular cigarettes.

UK tobacco and alcohol prices among highest in Europe

Britons have to pay some of the highest prices in Europe for alcohol and tobacco, figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed.

File photo of cigarettes on display in a shop. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Tobacco prices in the UK were 94% above the European Union average with only Norway, 170%, and Ireland, 99%, being more expensive.

Alcohol prices were similarly high compared to the other 26 countries in the EU, with the UK 43% above average.

File photo of a person drinking from a bottle of beer. Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Norway has the most expensive alcohol, 188% above the average, and Macedonia the cheapest, 35% below average.

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Health group welcomes e-cigarette regulation

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said:

ASH welcomes the MHRA’s decision not to follow the lead of a growing number of other countries and ban e-cigarettes, but to regulate them instead.

MHRA regulation can ensure that adult smokers can continue to be able to buy e-cigarettes as easily as tobacco, but promotion to children or non-smokers will be prohibited.

Smokers are increasingly choosing to use e-cigarettes. ASH estimates that around 1.3 million smokers and ex-smokers were current users in Spring 2013.

Some of the e-cigarette companies are complaining that their products will have to meet medicines standards for efficacy and safety, but for smokers to be confident about the quality of the products they’re buying such regulation is essential.

– Deborah Arnott, ASH Chief Executive

Watchdog: E-cigarettes 'not got enough' to go unregulated

Jeremy Mean, the MHRA’s manager of vigilance and risk management of medicines, said:

Reducing the harms of smoking to smokers and those around them is a key Government health priority.

Our research has shown that existing electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products on the market are not good enough to meet this public health priority.

Some NCPs are already licensed and the Government's decision to work towards medicines licensing for all these products is designed to deliver quality products that will support smokers to cut down and to quit.

The decision announced today provides a framework that will enable good quality products to be widely available.

It’s not about banning products that some people find useful, it’s about making sure that smokers have an effective alternative that they can rely on to meet their needs.

– Jeremy Mean

E-cigarettes 'better, cheaper' than normal cigarettes

The Chief Medical Officer said it was "only right" that electronic cigarettes would be regulated as medicines in the future and that they were a "safer" source of nicotine than normal cigarettes.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

Smokers are harmed by the deadly tar and toxins in tobacco smoke, not the nicotine.

While it’s best to quit completely, I realise that not every smoker can and it is much better to get nicotine from safer sources such as nicotine replacement therapy.

More and more people are using e-cigarettes, so it’s only right these products are properly regulated to be safe and work effectively.

– Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer
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