The UK saw the second Budget of 2017 last week and it was bad news again for Britain’s smokers. Chancellor Philip Hammond increased tax on cigarettes and tobacco for the second time in less than a year leaving the country in no doubt that the government is taking a firm anti-smoking stance. With the price rise kicking in from 6pm last Wednesday, smokers are facing spending an even larger proportion of their weekly budget on their habit, and needless to say, it hasn’t gone down well. On the other hand, it all looks like good news for the vaping industry, as more smokers are likely to seek alternatives to tobacco in an attempt to circumvent the extortionate tax hikes.
The Two Budget Scenario
2017 has seen an unusual situation arising in that the chancellor announced at the March Budget that in future, instead of announcing tax rises in spring, the Budget would be moved to autumn instead and the change would be taking place from this year. This left the UK in the unprecedented situation of having more than one Budget within a 12 month period. This has also meant that the “annual escalator” – the process which determines the amount by which tax should rise each year – has been applied once already in May after being announced in the spring. To the nation’s shock and horror, the annual escalator has been applied for a second time this month, according to the rules in the “Red Book”, meaning that, among other things, cigarettes, which were already priced highly, have seen vast increases over their cost at this time last year.
The Cost Of Smoking
The price of cigars and cigarettes increases each year by 2 percentage points above the inflation rate, while the price of tobacco increases by 3 percentage points. At the present moment, the UK’s inflation rate is 2.9%, and this means that cigarettes have seen a price rise of 4.9% on cigarettes and a shocking 5.9% on rolling tobacco. Following the budget in March, the average cost of a 20 pack of cigarettes had climbed to an all time high of £9.91. When the tax increases of this latest budget are applied, the same packet of cigarettes now costs 49p more, raising the price to an eye-watering £10.40. Over the course of a single year, this adds approximately an additional £178.85 to the cost of smoking.
How Can Smokers Avoid The Price Hikes?
Smokers are stuck between a rock and a hard place with this latest budget. Do they just bite the bullet and cough up the cash, or do they quit the habit? The problem is, of course, that for the UK’s 10 million smokers, stopping smoking isn’t that simple, and that’s where vaping comes in. The recent Stoptober campaign highlighted vaping as an effective way of ditching tobacco, and even the UK’s medical profession are now starting to recommend vaping as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. With the added incentive of this month’s price rises, it’s likely that the vaping industry will see increased profits as more people try to avoid the increases by investing in vaporizers.