All the talk at work today was about the price of cigarettes that will effectively double next year. Will this mean that many will give up? No, they will just get contraband cigarettes from other Balkan and non-EU countries. This is what will happen here and with my ear to the ground and working with Bulgarian smokers, I don’t doubt it.
Bulgaria's Finance Ministry plans to raise the excise duty on cigarettes to 76 euros for 1,000 cigarettes from January 2010.
If this plan goes ahead, cigarette prices in Bulgaria would increase by 30 per cent, on average. Currently, the rate is 52.3 euros for 1,000 cigarettes, Bulgarian-language Dnevnik daily reported.
One of the most popular brands, Victory, which is currently sold at 3.40 leva (1.70 euros) a packet, could reach 4.50 leva (2.3 euros) while Marlboro, currently sold at 3.90 leva (1.99 euros), could cost five leva (2.5 euros).
The ministry plans to include the new cigarette excise duty rates in the draft bill on the 2010 state budget, that will have to be tabled in parliament by the end of October.
Bulgaria has an agreement with the European Commission to raise the current cigarette excise duty to 64 euros for 1,000 cigarettes in 2010, from the current 52.3 euros, which is one of the lowest rates in the EU. Now, however, the ministry is apparently revising its intentions.
"The idea for a higher excise duty comes as a surprise, because until a few days ago we were discussing an excise duty of 64 euros," the state-owned Bulgartabak tobacco company, which holds half the cigarette market in Bulgaria, told Dnevnik.
Dnevnik spoke to producers and importers, who said that the increased excise duty would stimulate contraband and illegal cigarette production.