French tobacconists block Spanish border

French tobacconists block Spanish border
Photo: David Masters
Some 100 French tobacconists Sunday blocked access to the Spanish border in the southwestern frontier village of Perthus to protest a recent price hike on cigarettes and tobacco products.

The demonstrators set up barricades along a four-kilometre (2.5-mile) route to denounce a 6.5 to 10% increase in prices introduced this month, saying they were being forced out of business.

"A new network created by the state — tobacco mafia," read a sign on roadblock set up by them.

"Smuggling = 15,000 cartons per Sunday and destruction of the economy," said another.

Hordes of French travellers descend on the village every weekend to cross the border and snap up cheap tobacco and alcohol in Spain.

Gerard Vidal, the head of a local tobacconists' body, said the price difference with Spain, where cigarettes sell for as cheap as €4.25 ($5.5) against a minimum of €6.10 in France, was "catastrophic."

The price bump is not only linked to health grounds but also to the new Socialist government's efforts to plug a €37 billion hole in public finances.

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