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Cigarettes seized at Dublin Port Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Wexford is a hub for smuggling, say retailers

Government must do more to tackle smuggling problem, retailers tell, following €1.5m haul of cigarettes in Enniscorthy town yesterday.

WEXFORD HAS BECOME a hub for illegal cigarette smuggling, retailers in the south-east have claimed.

The county’s ports and high unemployment rate means that cigarette smuggling is far worse than yesterday’s €1.5m haul of cigarettes in Enniscorthy town would suggest, they say, with sales down considerably over the past few years.

“Sales of cigarettes are down 10 per cent to 20 per cent on last years figures,”  Jimmy Gahan, who owns Daybreak in Chapel lane, Enniscorthy told “I would imagine that half of that fall is down to illegal cigarette smuggling.”

“When you combine the amount seized yesterday with the last major seizure, nearly eight million illegal cigarettes have been seized in Enniscorthy in the past six months. It means that the South East is awash with illegal cigarettes and smugglers and criminals are undercutting legitimate retailers and businesses like my own.”

Peter Steemers in Bunclody, Co Wexford, says that his cigarette sales are down from €6000 a week to €3800 since the government began adding significant tax increases to cigarettes in 2007.

“On average cigarette sales account for 20-25 of overall sales. So if you take 2/5 of that away, you’re talking a lot, aren’t you? It’s no wonder that ancillary sales for icecream, sweets and the lottery are also down.”

He conducted a survey of cigarettes in his own shop and found that sales for major brands such as Marlboro and Benson and Hedges had fallen by as much as 50 per cent and more in some cases. “The tobacoo companies haven’t slowed production. So what’s happening? I don’t promote tobacco and I have no problem with that. It drives repeat business but if half your smokers are smoking illegal stuff, the repeat business is gone.”

Smugglers sold 1.6 billion cigarettes in Ireland in 2010, say The Retailers against smuggling alliance, who say shop owners have lost €896 million in turnover to the illicit market and a further €400 million in cross purchases in 2010. Retailers are calling on the government to do more to clamp down on the business.

“The Government must do more to deal with this problem or retailers will have to let staff go and more stores will close,” Mr Gahan

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