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Tobacco tourism - unaffordable for Spaniards, but a bargain for foreigners
ThinkSpain , Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two weeks ago, smokers started really feeling the latest cigarette price rise. The main brands, including Marlboro, Fortuna and Chesterfield, went up by between 20 and 25 cents, to almost 4.50€ per pack, forcing many smokers to move over to roll-ups.

Others have opted to stop the habit altogether, which was one of the government's objective when they raised tax on cigarettes in March, prompting the price hike.

Ever since the Anti-Smoking Law, which banned smoking in public places, bars and restaurants, came into force, 36% of smokers have tried to give up.

Over the last ten years, smokers have seen the cost of cigarettes rise year after year.  For the same money that buys one packet of cigarettes today, you could buy two in 2002, and it looks like prices are going to continue to rise until they reach the same levels as the rest of Europe.

Despite the continuing price rises, Spaniards still enjoy some of the lowest tobacco prices in the EU. In the UK and Ireland, a packet of cigarettes now costs in the region of 9€, whereas French and Italian smokers pay more than 6€ per packet, and Germans around 5€.  On the other hand, tobacco is still cheaper in many eastern European countries with smokers in Hungary paying 2.4 euros, in Bulgaria 2.5, Lithuania 2.5, Latvia 2.6 and Rumania 4.2.

Thanks to its lower tobacco prices, Spain remains one of the favourite destinations for European smokers.  "Many French people cross the border on a daily basis to buy cigarettes. Britons and Germans also take advantage of their holidays in Spain to take home as many cigarettes as they can," confirmed a customs officer.

The bargain is even greater for those who visit the Canary Islands. Taxes are much lower there and a pack of cigarettes costs between 1.60 and 2.60 euros depending on the brand. Visitors to Andorra benefit from the same tax savings, with cigarettes on sale at aroung 2.6€ in the principality.

The European Commission is currently trying to introduce new laws to reduce tobacco consumption, including making all cigarette packets identical, with the brand name much smaller than the health warnings.  The idea comes from Australia, where all cigarette packets will be olive green from December 1st onwards.  The aim is to get rid of any glamorous associations people may have with smoking.

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