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Cigarette sale restrictions could lead to increased mafia activity, warn kiosk owners
thinkSPAIN , Sunday, June 17, 2012

CIGARETTE-SHOP owners warn that the increasing restrictions on sales and consumption by the European Union will give rise to uncontrolled mafia activity.

Brussels wants to see all cigarettes sold in plain white packets with no brand name displayed, and for many of the added ingredients removed.

But the Spanish union of kiosk-owners says this will lead to mass production and smuggling of unregulated contraband cigarettes, which could be even more harmful to health than recognised brands.

They say the EU is aiming for a generic cigarette type, which will suffocate competition between multi-national companies.

And the current mixes of ingredients are what makes the various brands different and appeal to the consumer, they add.

By producing a single, non-branded product with reduced ingredients, the end result will not satisfy the consumer and could lead to them turning to cigarettes smuggled from outside the EU in illegal quantities, or those produced on the black market.

Already, they say, there is a serious problem with fake cigarette sales in Spain.

Alarmingly-high numbers of unregulated cigarettes have been found in the provinces of Cádiz, Málaga, Sevilla, Almería, Córdoba, Lleida, Huelva and Barcelona.

These being mainly border or coastal provinces means easy access for smugglers.

And an increase in taxes on cigarettes will lead to an increasing fall in sales and result in less tax, in fact, being collected.

Kiosk-owners say their sales have plummeted since the anti-smoking law was brought into effect in January 2011 and prices shot up as a result.

By the end of that year, the State had budgeted for clawing back 800 million euros in taxes on cigarettes, and ended up earning half that amount.

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