New report demonstrates the extent of tobacco smuggling in Ireland

TD says ‘man on the street’ does not understand implications of illegal cigarettes

Tobacco smuggling is estimated to cost the State up to €250 million a year. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Tobacco smuggling is estimated to cost the State up to €250 million a year. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 13:01

The public needs to be made aware that illegal tobacco smuggling is not a victimless crime, according to a prominent Government TD.

Damien English, the chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said the “man on the street” who buys illegal cigarettes does not understand the implications of such behaviour.

A report by Italian-based researchers Transcrime, published this morning, reveals that Ireland has the third highest rate of tobacco smuggling in Europe, estimated at between 13 per cent and 29 per cent of all tobacco products.

The report entitled Factbook on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Product (ITTP) said high cigarette prices, inadequate penalties for offenders and easy access for suppliers are all contributing to a loss of revenue to the State of between €200 million and €250 million on an annual basis.

The research was partially funded by Philip Morris International, one of the world’s largest tobacco manufacturers.

Professor Ernesto Savona, the head of Transcrime, said Philip Morris had no input into the research itself.

Mr English said some smokers on low family budgets feel justified in paying €3 or €4 for illegal cigarettes when a packet of 20 are almost €10 each.

However, he said numerous public meetings across the country had demonstrated that tobacco smuggling was doing “immeasurable damage” to the retail trade in Ireland.

He described it as a “multi-million euro, global criminal and paramilitary run racket which is making huge profits for those behind it”.

The Oireachtas committee is due to issue a report in September outlining how it sees the problem of tobacco smuggling.

Mr English said he had already met Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in relation to tobacco smuggling and tackling it should start with the forthcoming budget.

He recommended that more resources should be allocated to the Revenue Commissioners and, if necessary, that should include asking the tobacco manufacturers and retailers to fund more scanners at ports and airports.