Belgium tobacco sales have soared to record heights this year as cheap cigarettes and tobacco lure discount-seeking smokers from Britain and France, the daily Le Soir said Saturday.
As health experts complained that Belgium's cheap tobacco goods fanned cancer, Le Soir, citing exclusive data from the country's finance ministry, said cigarette sales leapt 19 percent in the first nine months of the year though the national tobacco federation said domestic sales were sliding.
Sales of roll-your-own tobacco increased 25 percent.
"There is no indication of an increase in smokers or an increase in the quantities smoked by individuals," Luk Joossens of the country's anti-cancer foundation told Le Soir.
"Belgium clearly must stop exporting cancer to other countries," he added.
While a smoking ban in public spaces was widened in July to cover all cafes, the price of cigarettes remains relatively low in comparison to other countries in Europe due to only small price hikes.
In 2002, a pack of 20 cigarettes was 0.50 Euros cheaper in Belgium than France, but the current difference is 1.20 Euros.
A pack at the equivalent of eight Euros in Britain costs 6.25 Euros in France, 5.47 in the Netherlands, 5.16 in Germany and 5.05 in Belgium. In Luxembourg the same pack goes for 4.40 Euros, the daily said.
It reported booming business in filling stations near the Franco-Belgian border, where some owners said tobacco sales were outpacing sales of petrol.
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