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Bbc news – smuggling cheap tobacco from gibraltar

Electronic cigarettes: regulatingcould have unintended consequences

The street is littered with ramshackle tobacconists that look like they opened for business in a hurry and could shut down just as quickly.

One shop in particular was doing a roaring trade.

In the corner, a young Spaniard tore up a carton of cigarettes, separating out the packets and taping them together in a long, thin line.

The shopkeeper told me he knew what was going on but declined to be interviewed.

But in the back of the shop, it was clear his customers were smugglers.

All the way along the narrow street, smugglers stripped the inside bodywork out of old vehicles and lifted up car seats to stow their illegal supplies.

One had even brought some elderly relatives with him presumably to make it less likely the car would be stopped and searched.

The customs officers are not to know that the two old Spanish women in the car are sitting on top of hundreds of illegal cigarettes.

But Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, insists the problem is under control.

“The Gibraltar authorities have made a huge number of arrests in the past year,” he told me.

And he says the booming trade is just a product of being a border town.

“What is the difference between that and people going over on booze cruises from the UK to France to purchase alcohol?

“There is in every frontier town always an arbitrage to be made one way and the other.

“Gibraltarians go to Spain to buy things that are cheaper in Spain than in Gibraltar.”

At the end of the interview, Mr Picardo told me he does not smoke himself and does not like the habit.

The enormous number of tobacconists in Gibraltar, though, are unlikely to be worried about that.

It is one of the few aspects of life on the Rock at the moment where the Spanish are more than welcome.