Life after Death: beat the tax man with the Siamese cigarette

The resourceful B J Cunningham, whose efforts to import lower taxed cigarettes for Britain's smokers were ended by the courts last week, hasn't yet been consigned to the ashtray of history. The ace up his sleeve is the world's first Siamese cigarette. Joined at the filter, it is formed from two stunted, but otherwise healthy, cigarettes. Called the 241, it would have been going on sale in Britain, paying the same duty as normal cigarettes, had Customs and Excise not noticed that you could, without surgery, transform a 241 into two separate and smokeable filter cigarettes.

B J Cunningham invented Death cigarettes and their priceless slogan "The grim reaper don't come cheaper". This time, he is presenting himself as "the smoker's friend" rather than as a grinning death's head, and he intends to fight for the legal rights of the 241.

Cunningham, who resolutely chugs his way through 40 of his own Death cigarettes a day, faces what he describes as a "mind-bendingly stupid route" through the courts. But he is determined to fight for his right to sell to his puffing pals. A spokesman for Customs said: "Mr Cunningham certainly makes our lives more interesting."

Smokers in Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg have been paying once and smoking twice courtesy of Cunningham since 1995. "The 241 is quite simply the most tax-efficient way of smoking," says Cunningham. He has some fine arguments for why the 241 is, in fact, one cigarette, the finest of which is that some smokers in Belgium smoke the 241 without breaking it, with the filter still in the middle. Very tasty.

The champion of tax-efficient tabbing is still reeling from his defeat at the hands of Customs. But he remains optimistic about the prospects for the 241. "The odds are in our favour. The 241 is, in every way, one cigarette, and the only way Customs are going to win is if they just stamp their feet and say 'That's that'."

Experience has taught the wily tab merchant a few things. He was going to call the 241 "Double Death" but recalled the storm of anger that surrounded the original arrival of packaged Death in newsagents. "We were the only thing that united the tobacco industry and the anti-smoking lobby. In the end, we had to drive the cigarettes to the shops ourselves. But I still think they are the coolest smoke." Robert Waugh

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