Friday, November 14, 2014
A ban buying cigarettes online
In its continuing crackdown on smoking, the French government is planning to make it illegal to buy cheap cigarettes on foreign websites. Selling cigarettes online is already illegal in France but for the moment buying them is not punishable by law.
Now Budget Minister Christian Eckert says the government is ready to ban online cigarette shopping in the coming weeks and to punish the buyers.
A survey carried out by tobacco giant Philip Morris International estimates France loses around 400 million euros every year due to online foreign purchases.
Tobacconists have also demanded action on the question, arguing that their trade is being hit hard enough by the anti-smoking campaign.
Many of the websites that sell cheap cigarettes are based in Ireland, where taxes are lower than elsewhere in Europe.
The government is planning to work closely with online sellers, who are obliged to register, in order to identify buyers.
This plan to sanction online cigarette buyers follows a new health bill that aims to cut smoking rates.
It includes outlawing smoking in cars with child passengers, raising prices and banning cigarette branding.
Cheap cigarettes in Russia
Russia's largest tobacco companies this week sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin imploring him to oppose a parliamentary initiative to set a minimum price on tobacco products, business newspaper Vedomosti reported Friday, citing a copy of the letter.
Although 60 percent of men and 25 percent of women in Russia smoke, according to the most recent World Bank data, the lower house of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, has been cracking down on the habit. Perhaps because, as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in 2012, almost half a million people a year from smoking and second hand smoke. This summer, smoking in Russian bars and restaurants was banned.
A bill to set a minimum price of 55 rubles ($1.3) per pack and then raise it in line with inflation was submitted to the Duma in September. This represents a major price hike: According to a tobacco industry source quoted by Vedomosti, 40 percent of cigarettes sold on the Russian market cost under 44 rubles, and a quarter of them are made by Russian companies.
n their letter, four of Russia's biggest tobacco producers — Donskoi Tabak, United Tobacco Factory, Usman-Tabak and the Baltic Tobacco Company — said the law would have a “detrimental impact on the domestic tobacco industry,” killing their competitiveness in the face of larger, multinational tobacco companies.
Vedomosti said it was unable to confirm the authenticity of the letter. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the paper he was not aware of it.
Cheap, locally made cigarettes are considerably lower in quality. Meanwhile, foreign companies dominate Russia's $20 billion cigarette market, and foreign brands like Lucky Strike and Parliament already sell at prices around 55 rubles.
Playing on a surge of nationalism that has swept through Russia after the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March, Vedomosti cited the letter as arguing that the bill is shortsighted and unpatriotic in the face of hostile sanctions by Western countries — where much of their competition is headquartered.
A survey by state-controlled pollster VTsIOM in early September suggested that more than 70 percent of Russians would ban imports of booze and cigarettes from Western countries in retaliation for sanctions, but few would give up foreign cars or pay an additional tax on vacations abroad.