20 AUGUST 1948, Page 3

No Cigarettes

Smoking is on the increase all over the world. In Britain, after what economists would no doubt call a period of suspended in- elasticity, the demands of smokers are once more overcoming the deterrent effects of the most drastic tax increases. And superimposed on these universal and secular trends is the seasonal tendency for tobacco consumption to be increased during holidays and not to be reduced afterwards. So, to the accompaniment of the usual non- sensical statements that really nothing whatever is happening, the reduction of withdrawals from bond by one-sixth announced by the Board of Trade a month ago has been followed by an inevitable 4 per cent. cut in manufacturers' supplies to retailers. There is no sense in either non-smokers or smokers pretending that this is not a serious matter. Completely irrational as it may be, the time spent in worrying aimlessly about the shortage, foraging for cigarettes, and becoming irritated at the idea that there must be plenty under the counter (the cut, be it repeated, is 4 per cent.), must be far more than the people of Britain can spare from their urgent tasks. Some measure of these barely suppressed feelings can be found in the fact that the sober word "reduction," which is appropriate enough to a deliberate administrative action, is never used. Always it is either a cut or a slash. The Government is being slowly pushed in the direction of more and more quantitative controls. Ration- ing, because of the universal prophecy that it would be accom- panied by black marketing, is repeatedly said to be impossible. The expenditure of more dollars on tobacco is said to be out of the question. Whether it is really out of the question will be discovered in the course of a few months, in which irritation and discomfort will undoubtedly grow to formidable dimensions.