Letter: Vicious circle

Sir: Customs' pre-Christmas clampdown on tobacco and alcohol smugglers is welcome (report, 9 November). But will Operation Mistletoe have any effect?

Independent shopkeepers, like myself, are being hit increasingly hard by cigarette smuggling into the UK. The cause of the problem is the UK's high levels of tobacco tax.

The start of December will bring another 20p tax increase on a packet of 20 cigarettes held over from the last Budget. The result will be an increase in smuggling. The Government is caught in a vicious circle; encouraging tobacco smuggling through its taxation policy and therefore having to spend more of the taxpayer's money to stem the flow. If the Government is serious about curbing this crime, they need to break out of the circle and reduce tobacco tax.

PAUL MASON

The Tobacco Alliance

London SW1

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