By Marcus Leach
The Chancellor George Osborne delivered the 2011 Budget today, Wednesday, and as always there was plenty of attention on the measures concerning tobacco and fuel duties.
The soaring motoring costs the country has seen over the past few years have been a major burden on both companies and private motorists, and in his Budget Mr Osborne announced that there will be a 1p per litre reduction on fuel duty. With oil prices surging lately the move to reduce fuel duty, as well as scraping the fuel duty escalator that would have pushed prices even higher, was a welcome relief to many motorists.
"It's about doing what we can to help with the high costs of living and the high cost of oil," Mr Osborne said. "The fuel duty escalator, that adds an extra penny on top of inflation every year will be cancelled, not just for this year, or next year, but for the rest of this Parliament."
So what does this mean to the consumer?
"We must accept that boom times are over and that living standards will fall over the next ten years. I am disappointed that the Government has pandered to the car lobby and reduced fuel duty. We do not have the right to cheap fuel, and car duty is highly damaging to the environment." (Richard Monks, private motorist).
"By no means do I think the reduction is enough. It is not realistic and to be honest I don't think it will affect me in the slightest." (Mark Chambers, London taxi driver).
"Whilst I would have liked to seen more done to fight the seemingly ever-rising fuel costs I am pleased that for once there is a reduction. In terms of my business it will make a slight difference and every little helps in terms of our outgoings." (Graham Evans, small logistics company owner).
"I think it's too little, but at the same time it all helps. A penny is a penny and everything adds up, so I am happy about it." (Andy Sherborne, London taxi driver).
The other area of popular interest centred around the rise in cost of tobacco. Tobacco duty will rise 2% above inflation, which means that a packet of twenty cigarettes will increase by around 50p. There will also be changes to 'Tobacco Duty Regime' in a move to stop companies producing cheaper cigarettes.
"It's clear that the structure of the tobacco duty regime is being exploited to produce cheaper cigarettes so we will change the regime to narrow the differential between these lower cost brands and the rest, and between cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco," the Chancellor said. "This will reduce smoking and improve our nation's health."
What does this rise mean to smokers?
"Increase in tobacco duty is entirely justified. This will only effect the relatively small numbers of full-time smokers in the country who already receive far more in NHS treatment than they pay for in tobacco duty." (James Hudson, non-smoker).
"I feel outraged as it is always, year after year, the tobacco duties that get increased. It makes me as a consumer feel let down by the Government as the price of tobacco is one of the highest in Europe with no sign of that ever changing." (Chris Oughton, casual smoker).
"People are not going to stop smoking because of the rise in price, it will just mean they buy cheaper alternatives, which will always be available to them." (Barry McCoy, smoker).
"Despite the rises in costs I struggle to see how this will reduce smoking, as smokers will make sacrifices elsewhere in their expenditures to continue to be able to afford cigarettes, as they do every year when prices rise. Quite how Mr Osborne thinks this rise in price will reduce smoking and improve health is beyond me, maybe he should make chocolate more expensive as well to reduce obesity levels." (Andy Newman, fitness trainer).
Whilst motorists, on the whole, are happy with the changes, smokers are once again left annoyed at the jump in tobacco prices. As for Mr Osborne's belief that the change in tobacco prices will improve the nation's health he might do well to realise our country's ills are not all a result of smoking.