Jersey customs says there are 'higher priorities' than tobacco

Tackling drug smuggling is more important than stopping people with too many cigarettes, says the director of law enforcement at Jersey customs.

Retailers in Jersey called for a review of the import rules.

James Fillieul from the Channel Islands Tobacco Importers and Manufacturers Association said more islanders were bringing in tax free cigarettes.

Steve Le Marquand from customs said it did work to stop people but there was only so much it could do.

Mr Fillieul said the government was losing millions in tobacco revenue as a result of people bringing in more than the 200 cigarette allowance.

Under Jersey law people can bring in as many duty free cigarettes as they like, as long as they declare anything over the personal allowance and pay the duty on the excess.

Mr Le Marquand said he understood the need to tackle people not paying duty, but illegal immigration and drug smuggling were higher priorities.

He said: "People are bringing in cigarettes in excess of 200 and we stop as many people as we can.

"There have been over 1,000 instances in 2012 where we found people in excess of that amount.

"It is not a case that we are ignoring it, we are doing all we can, but as with every service we have limited numbers and you can only stop so many people.

"Manning immigration controls is a high priority for us, that has to be done, and stopping the import of drugs is a high priority.

"Both those I would say have a higher priority for us than maybe stopping someone who has 400 cigarettes as opposed to 200."

Mr Fillieul said being an island people in Jersey tended to travel more than in other areas and so had more access to duty free.

He said: "Each year at budget time we will hear politicians say we will put cigarettes up by X% and we will get so much more in revenue.

"There is a deeper argument to that because you get people saying do I really want to pay that much more when I've got an option to pay much less."

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