Customs to weed out home-grown tobacco fans

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Customs officers are to crack down on one of Britain's most unlikely hobbies by imposing heavy duties on home-grown tobacco.

Customs officers are to crack down on one of Britain's most unlikely hobbies by imposing heavy duties on home-grown tobacco.

From April, up to 3,000 home-grown tobacco enthusiasts will be expected to pay as much as £44 a pound for their weed under a new duty which finally ends the tax-free status for home-grown leaf.

Enthusiasts claim the duty, which should have been introduced 10 years ago under an EU harmonisation agreement, will effectively destroy their hobby.

Now, home-growers who cure even a few pounds of leaves will be expected to register with Customs and Excise as "tobacco manufacturers" and pay £59.21 a kilo (2.2lb) for pipe grade weed and £96.81 for cigarette grade leaves.

Chris Gurney, who runs Plantation House, Britain's largest supplier of tobacco seeds, said enthusiasts can produce up to 20kg each year. That would leave them facing tax bills as high as £2,000.

He said tobacco growers were being discriminated against – especially since no duties were paid on home-brewed wine and beers, and when British smokers could buy rolling tobacco for £56 a kilo on cross-Channel ferries.

Despite the assumption that tobacco only comes from warmer climates, Nicotiana tabacum can be grown in British back gardens and allotments. The end product is an acquired taste, since it has none of the flavourings added by cigarette manufacturers.

But Customs has no plans for an aggressive pursuit of home-growers, who will be trusted to personally assess how much duty they owe. "There won't be dawn raids," said a spokeswoman. "We're focusing more on bootleg tobacco – people who're bringing in lorry loads."

Comments