ALMOST A THIRD of cigarettes smoked in a number of areas around the country come from the black market according to new research.
The research firm MS Intelligence examined discarded cigarette packs on the streets and in bins and found that Drogheda and Tallaght were the worst affected areas with 32.8 per cent of cigrarettes there coming from illicit trade. Athlone was close behind at 32.4 per cent.
The figures tally with similar research carried out by the Irish branch of a major tobacco firm earlier this year which said 28.2 per cent of all cigarettes sold here last year evaded the excise duty net.
The figures were released as part of a panel discussion on the black market that took place in Cork yesterday which estimated that illegal trading in Ireland costs the economy as as much as €1.5 billion each year. This is made up of an estimated €937 million in tax revenues lost by the exchequer and a further €547 million lost by retailers.
Business advisors Grant Thornton last month released a report on black market tobacco throughout the country and partner Brendan Foster says that cigarettes bought illegally have a negative impact beyond the lost tax income:
We must wake up and see that illicit trade, no matter what sector it takes place in, has a significant impact on both businesses and the government’s ability to implement its policies. It will be extremely challenging to implement public policy objectives on smoking if a quarter of Irish smokers buy their cigarettes on the black market, beyond the scope of any public health regulation.
As recently as Thursday Health Minister James Reilly had stated that it was the intention of the government to eliminate smoking in Ireland by 2025.
Foster says that Grant Thornton have recently opened practice in Cork City and is working with local businesses who he says are finding it difficult to compete against fraudulent goods being sold by organised crime gangs