Call for 60c on packet of cigarettes and tobacco regulator

Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation at Oireachtas committee

Revenue said the cigarettes represented a loss to the Exchequer of €3.6 million. File photograph: Bloomberg

Revenue said the cigarettes represented a loss to the Exchequer of €3.6 million. File photograph: Bloomberg

 

Health groups have called for a 60c increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes in next month’s Budget.

The Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation say a tax “escalator” of 5 per cent above the rate of inflation should apply in the case of tobacco products. This would amount to a 60c rise or a pack of 20 cigarettes, they told the Oireachtas Health committee this morning.

The two organisations also called for the appointment of a tobacco regulator to curb the “excessive” profits of the tobacco industry, and claimed this could yield additional tax revenue of €65 million a year.

Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy of the ICS, said tax receipts from the industry last year were €1.42 billion, less than the €2 billion cost of the health effects of smoking to society.

She disputed the industry’s claims that smuggling of tobacco products is running at 30 per cent, saying it was closer to the 13 per cent estimated in research carried out for the Revenue Commissioners. Some 87 per cent of smuggled cigarettes were the produce of legal industry in other countries, pointing to supply chain control issues.

Both organisations also called for the introduction of a tax on sugary foods to help combat obesity.

Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland said the cumulative effects of a series of austerity budgets was having a dramatic effect on older people who were struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Timmins said he was shocked by the results of a survey it carried out on the effects of austerity on older people. This showed some older people going to bed early to stay warm, choosing between food and fuel and no longer being able to afford a pet.

Nursing Homes Ireland is expected to tell the committee later that an enhanced framework to support “increasingly complex” care needs of nursing home residents is required, in addition to support for the Nursing Home Support Scheme – A Fair Deal - to eradicate waiting lists.

In a statement on its pre-budget submission, Nursing Homes Ireland said Fair Deal must “remain a ring fenced budget, be adequately resourced and future-proofed”.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive, said: “Adequately resourcing the scheme is the humanitarian thing to do, will ensure that people are cared for in the most appropriate setting and will enable the acute hospital sector to discharge older persons for specialist care in their local community.”

Mr Daly will conclude his statement by repeating his organisation’s call for the State to bring all relevant stakeholders around the table to plan through a forum on long term residential care.

“We cannot ignore the warnings. Our ageing population confirms the increased requirement for nursing home care. Within three years the HSE is projecting a significant national deficit of beds for residential nursing home care.

“An under supply of beds in Dublin and urban centres is already being reported by the HSE,” he said.