It’s time for the Government to stop fleecing the consumer and give law-abiding smokers a break.

Anti-smoking groups such as ASH are calling for the chancellor to increase tobacco duty by inflation plus 5%. 

Tobacco duty in the UK is at punitive levels already and it’s no coincidence that the country is a hotspot for illicit trade.

Imagine how much worse things would get if it went up by 5% plus inflation. It’s not going to get any better and it will cause people to turn to the black market trade or cross-border shopping.

Any reasonable assessment must conclude that a further increase in tobacco duty will benefit no-one other than criminal gangs and black market traders.

We have a lot of sympathy for shopkeepers, they’re the ones in the firing line and losing business

Tobacco is a legal product and smokers have a right to expect a level of taxation that is fair and reasonable and doesn’t increase poverty or inequality. We believe it makes economic sense to not only abolish the duty escalator but to freeze or even reduce tobacco taxation.

Smokers would still make a major contribution to the economic health of the nation, far in excess of the estimated cost of treating smoking-related diseases, which is said to be £2.7bn a year.

Government policy should reflect the social and economic realities of smoking, not the smoke-free utopia some people would have us inhabit.

We have a lot of sympathy for shopkeepers, they’re the ones in the firing line and losing business. We’d like them to support our Axe The Escalator campaign, they can find it at axetheescalator.com and they can send a letter to their local MP.

Simon Clark, Director, Forest