The Irish Cancer Society is urging the Government to increase the tax on cigarettes by €1 in the forthcoming budget in order to fund the fight against tobacco smuggling.
The organisation denies that an increase in the price of cigarettes would increase the sale of cheap smuggled tobacco.
“High price is not the problem. The problem is that the courts aren’t imposing high enough penalties, there aren’t enough disincentives and a key piece is that the Revenue does not have the resources it needs,” said Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy with the Irish Cancer Society.
Smuggling remains a problem in countries such as Turkey where cigarettes are cheap, she said.
It called on the government to increase investment into fighting tobacco smuggling by adding 60 more customs officials and extra resources, such as x-ray scanners, at a cost of €5 million per year.
Such an initiative could reduce cigarette smuggling by a third and would be funded by a €130 million saving in lost revenue and €1 duty on tobacco which would generate an additional €200 million in tax, the society said.
Tax revenue from cigarette sales is expected to be €10 million less than expected this year despite a 75 cent hike in cigarettes over the last two budgets, the society said.
There is no evidence that less people are smoking but there is increasing availability of smuggled tobacco as one in five cigarettes smoked in Ireland is illegal, it said.
The society wants to see the courts increasing the punishment for those caught smuggling cigarettes.
“The average fine imposed by court for smuggling cigarettes is around €400 nothing short of a joke,” Ms O’Meara said.
Chief Executive John McCormack told a briefing of TDs and Senators this morning that some 6000 people die from smoking related illness each year and cigarettes kill more people than road crashes, suicides, drugs, farm accidents and AIDs combined.
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