the government's “right” fiscal lode, budget after budget

In a few months, tobacco prices will increase. Currently, a packet of industrial cigarettes costs on average 7.50, while a 50 g packet of tobacco costs around 12 euros. This represents a budget for each smoker.

Whenever a government decides to increase excise duties on tobacco, the media go out into the field to meet smokers. They always ask them if this new increase will dissuade them from smoking or if it will encourage them to smoke less, because each time, we tell ourselves that it will hurt the wallet. As recently as today, our teams went to interview smokers. Faced with the announced increase in excise duties on tobacco, it is more resignation that seems to prevail. “It would be a little more expensive, at the limit of 20 euros, we might think twice. But here, we are used to it being, each time, increased by 2 or 3 euros”, explains a smoker. For another, it will deter “maybe those who have no money“Or, explains another smoker, “when we see what it costs, we think of stopr “, but the cost of tobacco does not weigh heavily enough in the face of what to do to quit smoking.

In Belgium, in 2018 there were a quarter of fewer smokers than ten years earlier. Around one in five Belgians declared themselves to be a “smoker” according to a Sciensano health survey. The number of cigarettes smoked per day had fallen from 17 to 15. It was especially among young people that tobacco consumption tended to decline.

Currently, when a smoker buys a pack of cigarettes in Belgium, the tobacco, production and distribution costs are only about a quarter of the price. The rest, about three-quarters of the price, are excise duties and VAT.

In the program law, the current government has planned to increase excise duties. This has already been the case in 2021. And this is not the first time that a government has increased taxes on tobacco. Before this new round of increases, which began in 2021, changes in excise duties on tobacco had already been envisaged to increase tax revenues. In 2015, the government bet on 100 million euros in additional tax revenue. In 2016 out of 175 million euros. Out of 250 million in 2017 and out of 325 million euros in 2018.

Tobacco-related tax revenue figures show that this calculation works. From 2009 to 2020, customs and excise duties on manufactured tobacco increase from year to year. In 2009, this brought in to the state a little less than $ 1.82 billion. By 2020, this sum had climbed to more than 2.5 billion euros. If we add VAT, we cross the three billion euros mark.

It therefore remains tempting for the State to count on these taxpayers with a particular profile, those who are explained to want to dissuade smoking while relying on their spending to increase tax revenues. These taxpayers are still numerous. Belgium has around 1.4 million daily smokers and 360,000 occasional smokers.

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