Cross-border freedom called above the call to service.

The days when you can take the 200 free cheap cigarettes, each time you switched to the English Channel more. European Union agreed to a couple of years ago that the emergence of the single European market the concept of duty-free goods to travel between EU member states in the absurd.

Excise paid in the UK, should be recognized as an excise tax payable in France or Belgium, and vice versa. Thus, you can make purchases anywhere in the EU, irrespective of the quantity you want and bring it home, do not pay additional taxes - provided that it is intended for personal use.

This is what the single market funds. The smooth cross-border shopping for those with vehicles.

Who should make the duty-free shop at Calais, where you can drive a little further up the coast of Belgium, buy cheap cigarettes by 43 per cent of the price in the UK stores and bring in unlimited quantities, in the trunk of your car?

And here is the rub. Some excise tax may be paid in Belgium, when you buy a package of 20 premium brand of smokes at GBP1.97 (about HK $ 23,88). But this is not quite the equivalent of what you pay in the UK for a package of 20 at GBP4.51.

With funding for the 20 day habit, it makes sense to make the trip every six months or so, the package 4000 cheap cigarettes in the back of the van and save GBP508. Unfortunately, this is not simply an enterprising individual smoker who worked in this for themselves. Since organized crime. The tobacco industry asserts that approximately one in five cigarette smoked in Britain is smuggled, while 80 per cent of rolling tobacco as contraband.

British Customs smoked a bit about the traffic in cheap cigarettes and some have developed stringent methods of solutions - such as the confiscation of any suspicious van, the cheap cigarettes found within it, and everything else that could be it.

In one recent case, Customs officers at Dover imposed not only van worth GBP20, 000, 9000 cheap cigarettes and 20 bottles of spirits, but also preserve for six months in a wheelchair from the alleged smugglers in the 90-year-old mother-in-law.

Was whether Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, that the van had broken down to a question during a vacation in Spain and was repatriated to the automobile association? This, of course, do not cause any special sympathy. On the contrary, the owner may have a better chance of claiming the 9000 cheap cigarettes were for personal use, if he was driving at the time.

The Department has issued guidelines for its staff that is nothing more than cheap 800 cigarettes in one party can not be for personal use. Not surprisingly, the Customs and Excise seized more than 22,000 cars in the past three years.

The EU is not happy. This gave Britain two months to prove that the customs officials, without violating the right of consumers to freely buy anywhere in Europe. As the EU Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein put it recently: "Cross-border trade ... is a fundamental right in accordance with EU legislation, and should not be regarded as a form of tax evasion."

Despite Mr Bolkestein that difficult to consider cross-border buying cheap cigarettes, except as a form of tax evasion. As long as price differences between countries are a consequence of different levels of government, taxes, rather than a reflection of free competition, not a single market for cheap cigarettes. There are 15 separate markets.

Deliberately stockings in Belgium, where 79 percent of the recommended retail price is British and excise taxes, of course, looks like tax evasion, if not directly evasion.

But the fault can hardly be put on the smoker. It is up to EU governments to agree on their excise tax rates or face a determined effort to expand them for an indefinite period. Otherwise, there will always be both punters and criminal gangs are trying to get their hands on cheap cigarettes. If people could not travel abroad for cheap prices, it will most likely be very tempted by the temptation of low prices of smuggled goods.

As long as the EU insists that there is a single market for cheap cigarettes, and consumers have the right to make purchases as they like, as a policy exemption of private vehicles on the suspicion was inappropriate and possibly illegal under British and EU legislation.

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