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THE REDUCED TOBACCO DUTY. HOW WILJJ THU SMOKER, BENEFIT ? Who will benefit most by the reduction in tho tobacco duty which recently came into force? This is a question which naturally interests the smoker, but t,o. give a direct,answer is by no means easy. We Y. i' e have made inquires (says the Globe) of some of the leading manufacturers and retail houses, and very .divergent opinions are expressed. Whatever may ba the feeling of the consumer, who appears to have visions of a substantial reduction in the price of his tobacco, the dealers seem to be singularly ungrateful in regard to the concession of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They say the change was not wanted, and has put them to a great deal of trouble and in- convenience, and that the 5 per cent. reduction in the moisture limit cuts away quite half the boon. of tho( sixpence' off the tobacco duty. Nevertheless, calculate how you may, tbej-e is at least one "Tartiling per ounce tq the benefit of sonlepne, and the question is of whom. It appears that the smoker of the higher grade tobaccos is sure to get the full advantage, perhaps to the extent of a halfpenny (an 8d. reduction would have much simplified matters, being exactly one halfpenny pgr ounce), but the man who buys tke cheaper kinds of tobacco, although hs will get mora to the ounce, is hardly likely to secure anything like such a reduction in price. It must not be forgotten, too, that the drier state of the tobacco will lead to more rapid consumption, so that the benefit to the poorer class of smoker is reduced almost to vanishing point. This question of mois- ture is a most important one. Tobacco on which a duty of 3s. 2d. a pound is at present charged must contain at least 10 ..per cent. of natural moisture —that of a lower percentage pays 3s. 6d.—a pro- vision made in the days when importers had the leaf dried in the Channel Islands a practice which re- sulted in lighter weighing when the Customs had to be reckoned with. The higher grades of tobacco are so rich in oils that they refuse to take much moisture—not more than lO per cent. can, as a rule, be added:—so that the man who pays 5d. an ounce forfeits less than he who gives 3d. for his common shag, which is generally moistened up to the limit. Indeed, it is calculated that the latter pays nearly 2'78d. of his 3d. to the national Exchequer. Under the new arrangement, therefore, the better tobacco gains the full advantage of the 6d., for being already- well within the moisture limit it makes no concession, cm that score. The 6d..will go to the manufacturer, and he, in turn, will be compelled by competition to give the whole or greater part of the .advantage to the consumer. But with the commoner tobaccos (representing about three-fourths o.f the total consumption of the country) it is often the moisture alone that allows the manufacturer and the retainer his profit, so that here the 5 per cent. reduction is a' serious consideration, each, 1 per cent. of moisture representing a little over one half- penny. I', But a,fter all, it may be .said, there is still a far- thing to the,goo(i under tlie. new arrangement. True, it is ]ust:possLble that thp working maft..who buys his tobacco by, the ounce may,benefit,to tfc^fc extent. How many. off.6 there,. however, who purchase in smaller quantities ? According to one of the leading manufacturers; there are thousands who never buy more than half an ounce at a time, and it will readily be seen that with the best intentions in the world the retailer can hardly split the farthing in two. Of course, the tobacconist might getover the difficulty by putting in less moisture than the 30 per cent, which will now be the statutory limit, but is it a question whether the working man would appreciate having the purer and drier, if more quickly smoked, articles -far his money. Nothing would appeal to him but less money paid over the counter for his 'alf ounce o' shag," and how he is to get the benefit of that half-a-fartb ing it is difficult to. see. In the opinion of a well-known London importer of cigare, the concession will certainly benefit the British cigar manufacturer. He will pay less for hit leaf, while thp duty on imported cigars remains at 6s. and thus a great and growing industry will have an advantage over Continental cigars. Here, again, the man who buys his single "Britisher" (for the reduction in duty means a saving of about 7§d. on 100 cigars) will gain nothing, but the concession will tend to stimulate thp home in- dustry, and in tiipie competition should result in the production of a better article at 2d. or 3d. There are other directions in which benefit will accrue, but again the advantage will lay less with the consumer than the retailer. In addition to the 6d. reduction on the 3s. 2d. duty, 7d. is to be taken off the 4s. duty (imported cigarettes),, and already at American tobacco company, who are large im- porters of cigarettes, have announced their inten- tion of reducing the price per 1000 by Is. (3d- This will be to the advantage of the shopkeeper, but the buyer of a packet of ten cigarettes will find it difficult to get hit lOOth part share of that concession on the wholesala price. To gum- up, while the consumer of the best tobaccos will reap the full benefit of Sir M. Hic8 Beach's proposals, neither losing nor gaining in the quality of the article smoked, the man who fills his pipe with the cheapest tobaccos willget a better article at possibly a farthing lower price if he buys by the ounce, but, per contra, will, by reason of the reduced moisture find that his pouch empties quicker and contains more dust. It is the retail dealer who will reap the surest profit from the concession made to manufac- tured tobaccos and imported cigarettes, and no one, certainly not the consumer, will grudge him any legitimate benefit. These are the days of cutting prices," and the small tobaemnist, with his long hours and lean profits, can well do with a little encourage- ment. At the same time, he will be selling an article which will of necessity be of purer quality and greater bulk than at present. While on the subject of tobacco it may not be without interest to state that as a result of inquiries we are led to believe that the war in Cuba will have little effect on the price of the best Havana cigars as sold by retail dealers of high standing, at least for more than a year to come. Thosi possessing the requisite capital were able to make provision against the inevitable trouble they have laid in large stocks of cigars, including the 1897 crop, and in the circumstances business with- the regular customer whose orders are a consideration, will be carried on at normal prices. The small shop- keeper who can only purchase in limited qnantities, and who is naturally affected by every fluctuation of the market is already paying more for Havana cigars. What will happen if the war is a!protracted one it is difficult to foresee. No 1898 crop has been sown, and all the tobacco growers have left Cuba.


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