Alcohol sidestepped any price increase in the budget but a packet of 20 cigarettes was hit with a by now routine tax increase of 50 cent. The increase will see the price of a pack of 20 climb past the €15.50 mark, with other tobacco products seeing a pro-rata increase.
It was condemned as too much by retailers and as insufficient by the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF).
The IHF’s director of advocacy, Chris Macey, said the 50 cent rise in the price of a packet of cigarettes was a sign Ireland had become “complacent” in the battle against nicotine addiction, and described the budget as a “missed opportunity” to get the ball rolling on bringing the cost of a packet to €20 by 2025.
“We led the way with our smoking ban. Other countries are now approaching a tobacco end-game. In New Zealand, for example, new laws mean under-14s won’t be allowed to buy tobacco in their lifetimes. But in Ireland we are becoming complacent.”
He also expressed disappointment that the IHF’s call for a 10 cent excise duty on every millilitre of e-cigarette liquid sold went unheard. “Research shows that young people who vape are up to five times more likely to move on to (tobacco) smoking than those who don’t,” Mr Macey said. “We cannot sacrifice another generation of children to nicotine addiction.”
Retailers Against Smuggling suggested the excise increase would drive further black market activity and described the tax hike as “extremely disappointing”.
Spokesman for the lobby group Benny Gilsenan said the move would “inevitably push many consumers to the black market for the first time and makes illicit tobacco an even more lucrative commodity for organised crime gangs”.
He said the percentage of smuggled tobacco on the Irish market would “continue to rise because of the increase, eliminating any potential gains to the Exchequer”.
“As consumers turn towards the black market ultimately it is the retailer who suffers through the loss of not only the legal purchase of cigarettes but also any potential additional purchases that person might make when they are in the store.”
Alcohol was left untouched, prompting Alcohol Action Ireland, which advocates for reducing alcohol harm, to express “regret” that the Minister for Finance “did not take note of our advice on establishing a CPI link to all alcohol excise duties or a much-needed alcohol harm levy to establish annual income streams for coherent alcohol initiatives and programmes”.
Excise reductions on petrol which were introduced this year have been extended until the end of February, and will amount to a 21 cent per litre continued reduction in the price of petrol and a 16 cent cut in diesel prices.