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‘Nearly 30 per cent’ of cigarettes sold in Ireland last year were illegal

A major tobacco company’s Irish branch says 28.2 per cent of all cigarettes sold here last year evaded the excise duty net.

Image: Cigarette photo via Shutterstock

ONE OF THE WORLD’S biggest tobacco companies has said nearly 30 per cent of all cigarettes sold in Ireland last year was sold illegally.

The Illicit Tobacco Review 2012, by JTI Ireland, says the increase in illicit sales – which it estimates stood at 28.2 per cent of all cigarettes last year – was the result of combined excise and VAT increases introduced in Budget 2011.

The company – part of a global brand that includes flagship brands like ‘Benson & Hedges’ and ‘Silk Cut’ – is now undertaking a national roadshow aimed at highlighting what it sees as the effects of the illicit tobacco trade on small communities.

“In 2012, 23 per cent of all excise generated for the Exchequer came from tobacco,” said JTI Ireland general manager John Freda.

“Given the easy access for a growing number of Irish consumers to non Irish duty-paid tobacco products, it is imperative that policy-makers take effective steps to ensure that this trend is reversed.”

Freda said cigarettes in Ireland were now 25 per cent dearer than in 2006, but tobacco consumption had not fallen – indicating that people were simply smoking smuggled, illicit tobacco instead of buying legal products.

The report finds that the average fine for people caught selling illicit tobacco is just over €2,800 – a figure it claims is not nearly high enough to dissuade criminals from the massive profits they can make through illicit sales.

It also outlines how many smugglers have started importing loose leaf tobacco and empty tobacco pouches separately, hoping to evade authorities looking out for prepacked tobacco pouches.

The report is backed by Retail Ireland, whose chairman Frank Gleeson said criminal gangs were making €3 million a week from the sale of illicit tobacco.

Read: Illegal cigarette consumption rose by almost a third in Ireland last year

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Gavan Reilly

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