No Smoke without Cash Mar05


A part of taxes paid by European citizens is used by the EU to subsidise EU tobacco farmers. EU Member States and the EU use more tax revenue to advertise the ill effects of smoking. European smokers pay heavy taxes to buy their cigarettes and tobacco companies spend taxable profits to advertise so that we, especially our children, will smoke more!


Are we mad? Do we like to pay taxes that can be wasted by our governments and the EU in this way? Why do we ban smoking in public places and then allow our national health systems, funded by our taxes, to spend a vast amount to treat smokers for smoking related diseases?  Should we accept the unnecessary death of 500,000 Europeans each year from smoking related diseases?


Over 100,000 tobacco farmers in the EU (60,000 in Greece, 27,000 in Italy and the rest in France and Spain) use buying syndicates to claim and receive €1bn in annual subsidy from the EU Common Agricultural Fund! This subsidy supports the livelihood of farmers, their families and their employees. The subsidy is allegedly shared with local politicians and national political parties to reward them for their sustained lobby in Brussels to ensure continuation of annual payments. Whilst the EU is aware of the discrepancy between subsidy claims and true production, it justifies the subsidy by highlighting the political instability of border regions e.g. northern Greece and the Balkan states.


Tobacco, like coffee and cocoa, is a cash crop grown in many developing countries. The growers earn little and the prices have not risen for years. A typical tobacco grower in Africa or Asia receives about €2 per Kilo for his leaf realising a profit of €1. As 1Kg of leaf produces 1000 cigarettes, the cost of the leaf in a pack of 20 cigarettes is a mere €0.20 just 3% of the retail price! The UK Government’s tax, including VAT, is 80% and the remaining 17% covers production cost, advertising expense, marketing & distribution costs as well as the profits of manufacturers and distributors. The UK Government collects €4 tax from every pack of cigarettes sold in Britain at €5 whilst the poor African or Asian tobacco grower receives €0.20!


The 25 EU Member States collect €55bn each year from taxes on sale of tobacco products. Clearly, no EU Member State Government will be “tough on tobacco sales” as so much revenue flows into their coffers without much public protest. Every public campaign against smoking strengthens the public perception that smoking is anti-social. The smokers are reminded that smoking causes death every time they open a packet of cigarettes. Non-smokers can be unfriendly to them in places without clearly marked areas for smoking. Pharmaceutical companies have profited from producing anti-smoking treatments. Sadly, the weed is addictive for them and they cannot always kick the habit!


If tobacco production and consumption are economic burdens on non-smoking European citizens then why do we subsidise European growers when tobacco is grown without subsidy and cost to us in developing countries? If the subsidy is to maintain political stability in sensitive regions of Greece, Italy, France and Spain then why is the EU not offering a similar subsidy to farmers in Northern Ireland for their crops? The EU should encourage free enterprise and a culture of self-reliance. The EU should invest in re-training and re-deployment of labour to encourage a shift of employment from unproductive labour intensive enterprises to high tech enterprises producing value added goods. In any case, why should heavily taxed non-smoking European citizens subsidise Greek, Italian, French and Spanish tobacco growers who pay so much less in taxes to smoke in their countries?


Would the EU subsidise marijuana if Northern Irish farmers switched from potatoes to growing this weed in their greenhouses?  Would it allow the sale of cigarettes containing marijuana if they are highly taxed? Would such a decriminalisation of marijuana put the drug dealers out of business and help reduce crime on our streets?