U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak raised the tax on cigarettes by 2 percent above inflation in his new budget, bringing the average cost of the most expensive pack of cigarettes to £12.73 ($16.21) and the cheapest pack of cigarettes to £9.10.
The hand-rolled tobacco tax will increase by 6 percent above inflation, bringing the price of the most expensive cigarettes to £15.60.
The increase follows Action on Smoking and Health’s (ASH) request that Sunak reduce the affordability of tobacco products. ASH stated that it was happy with the tax increase but thought the measure didn’t go as far as it should. “Despite successive years of tax increases, the past failure to close the gap in tax on hand-rolled tobacco has kept smokers smoking who might otherwise quit,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH. “Thousands of smokers have switched to cheaper hand-rolled tobacco in recent years. We welcome the government’s efforts to address this, but it must go beyond a single year.”
Some tobacco advocates had the opposite response, though. “Further increases in tobacco duty discriminate against those who are less well off,” said Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest. “In addition to forcing some smokers further into poverty, it will encourage illicit trade, which puts smokers at even greater risk from counterfeit tobacco. The Chancellor had an opportunity to stand up for consumers who are willing to pay their fair share of tax but object to being punished for a habit that already earns the Treasury over £10 billion a year. Sadly, he flunked it.”