Budget 2018: Alcohol and fuel spared but cigarettes hiked by 50 cents

Third price hike in two years will take price of 20 cigarettes to €12

The old reliables became the old reliable in Paschal Dohohoe’s first budget with alcohol and fuel both spared any excise duty increases while cigarette smokers were hit hard again.

The 50 cent increase in the duty on a packet of cigarettes will either save lives, take money out of smokers’ pockets or give criminals an even greater incentive to smuggle tax free cigarettes into the Republic, depending on which side of the smoking fence you are sitting on.

The increase, the third such price hike in two years, will take the price of 20 cigarettes to €12 and was welcomed by the Irish Cancer Society who said "sharp, regular spikes in the price of tobacco" will help the Government reach its target of a tobacco-free country by 2025.

The society's Head of Services and Advocacy Donal Buggy said the price hike will "encourage people to stop smoking and ultimately save lives."


He said that price increase were the most effective way of stopping children from taking up smoking and in encouraging people to quit. "This can be seen in significantly reduced rates of smoking in Ireland among children and adults in recent years. Child smoking is at an all-time low of 8 per cent, while overall smoking prevalence is at 23 per cent."

However he warned that price increases alone would not achieve the target of a tobacco-free Ireland. “Price increases, while hugely important in increasing quit rates, need to be accompanied by readily available supports for smokers to quit”.

The chairman of the of the Royal College of Physicians policy group on tobacco, Dr Des Cox said that the excise increase would further reduce smoking prevalence. "This is a significant development, along with the introduction of plain packaging in recent weeks, in reducing smoking rates," he said.

However retailers were furious at the decision. "Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) is in no doubt that these excise increases, which make Ireland the most expensive place in the EU to buy cigarettes, only serve to further incentivise smuggling and undermine Irish retailers," its spokesman Benny Gilsenan said.

He said the price increase was “another slap in the face to retailers that have been compliant with every decision made by this Government”.

He said excise increases “only widen the gap between legitimate shop-owners that are earning an honest living, and gangs peddling €5 cigarette packets in our communities. What’s more, this is little more than a stealth tax on our law-abiding customers, who choose to buy legitimate product rather than smuggled product from the street.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast