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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Counterfeit cigarette packs 'so good' professionals can't tell the difference

The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Bill 2013 was discussed by the Oireachtas today with a focus on the impact it could have on the black market.

“THE POORER YOU are the more likely you are to have your life destroyed by cigarettes.”

Those were the words of Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children this morning.


The all-party group met this morning to discuss plain packaging on cigarettes and the effects it may have on children and smokers if introduced.

TDs and Senators were joined by representatives from the An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners.

McLellan told the hearing that there is “a definite correlation of socio-economic groups”  when it comes to smoking.

Meanwhile, Labour TD Ciara Conway wanted to know if plain package cigarettes “will it make it easier to counterfeit?”

Those opposed to the move have argued that only the black market will benefit with one group, Forest, claiming criminal gangs will sell cigarettes to anyone, including children.

The Garda Assistant Commissioner, Derek Byrne, said that the current quality of counterfeit goods (with branded packaging) was so good that professionals struggle to identify a difference.

But the Assistant Secretary of the Indirect Taxes Division Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Gerard Moran said that while packaging can be counterfeited, the tax stamp is more reliable.

We rely on the tax stamp that is state of the art and highly resistant to counterfeiting


Moran also told the hearing that “internationally and domestically the field is dominated by crime groups” and that “tackling illicit cigarette crime is a key priority for revenue”.

He also noted how revenue have taken a huge cut in staff recently but that they’ve kept the numbers of those working on tackling illegal tobacco on the black market.

The Revenue’s customs criminal investigation branch seized €43.3 million euros worth of illegal tobacco last year.

However that was the lowest amount of illegal tobacco seized since 2007.

The record for the highest amount seized was in 2009 , when €92.1 million euros worth was seized.

A number of health associations met this morning to offer their support to the government’s plan to introduce plain package cigarettes.

The new boxes, which are already being sold in Australia, will replace attractive branding with large graphic health warnings.

Revenue seize 22,000 cigarettes hidden in steel containers>

Pics: 100,000 cigarettes in unmarked boxes seized in Munster>

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