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31 May 2012
Smugglers' delight

I have just completed a writing project looking at the illicit tobacco trade. The scale of illegally traded cigarettes and the production of counterfeit products is enormous - I had no idea! Governments lose around US$40 billion every year in taxes to contraband trade. People who buy cheap unbranded or untaxed cigarettes don't realise that their money is often going to the same organised crime syndicates which traffic drugs and humans.

Before plunging into the depths of contraband cigarettes, I completed the Booksellers Association Annual Review - always an interesting project. Independent booksellers are struggling to survive in the face of growing online sales and supermarket discounting, and the Association has been campaigning - along with the likes of Mary Portas - to save our high streets. By buying locally - and with the support of local councils in providing proper parking and charging sensible business rates - we can all help keep the character of our local high streets, including excellent booksellers.

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