Rigorous monitoring and increased checks by Revenue are essential to combat a potential increase in illicit trade of cigarettes over the coming months. That is the call from Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) who have raised concern over the potential growth of the black market as a result of Covid-19 and the upcoming ban on menthol cigarettes in Ireland, which comes into effect on Wednesday, 20th May 2020.
Commenting, national spokesperson for RAS and Dublin based retailer, Benny Gilsenen said: “Significant seizures of cigarettes by Revenue in recent weeks, including two hauls at Dublin Port worth over €7.9m, indicates that the black economy is alive and well. As retailers across the country are struggling to adapt to the new operational realities and costs of Covid-19, these seizures tell us that it is very much business as usual for the criminals.
“While we commend the efforts of Revenue in ensuring that these cigarettes do not reach the black market, including another seizure in Donegal over the weekend worth €40,000, there is no room for complacency in clamping down on cross-border smuggling, particularly in light of the new regulations coming into effect this month. Retailers like myself are very concerned that the ban on menthol cigarettes, which account for approximately 18 per cent of tobacco sales in Ireland, will result in a widening of a black market that is already having an adverse effect on local retailers. We have already witnessed a growth in the trade of illicit menthol cigarettes in the UK over recent months and there is a real risk we will see a similar trend emerge here.”
The ban is being introduced to follow the completion of a four-year phasing-in period under a 2016 EU directive on tobacco products. According to its 2019 Annual Report, Revenue seized 3,215 cigarettes and 1,445 other tobacco products, at a total value of €10.52 million. This represented a 75 per cent drop since the same period in 2018.
Mr Gilsenen added: “Looking at the significant drop in seizures between 2018 and 2019, it is glaringly obvious that criminal gangs are using whatever means necessary to evade detection and keep their illegal finances thriving. The spate of seizures in the last week should serve as a wake-up call for everybody.”