One-third of Irish smokers prepared to purchase illicit tobacco
A new poll, commissioned by representative body, Retailers Against Smuggling, has demonstrated the resilience of the illegal tobacco trade in Ireland; with a staggering 76% of people surveyed stating they would not report illegal tobacco sales and 32% percent of smokers prepared to purchase illegal tobacco.
The poll*, carried out by Ireland Thinks, between 5th and 6th of May, looked to gauge people’s willingness to purchase illegal tobacco. The poll also sought to understand what the appetite was among the panel surveyed to report those selling illegal tobacco to the relevant authorities.
The main findings of the poll include:
The Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill, published last week, will introduce a new licensing system which will add a further unnecessary administrative burden and cost on retailers, without addressing a huge underlining issue. Illegal tobacco, some of dubious origin continues to enter Ireland in huge amounts. RAS proposes that 30% of the funds collected from the licence fee are ringfenced for initiatives that will meaningfully deal with the growth of smuggling activities in the country.
Illegal tobacco sales have soared over the past year with the issue now becoming a chronic challenge. With the increase in international travel and increased smuggling, Ireland’s streets are awash with non-Irish duty paid tobacco. In the space of just one week (25-31 May, 2023) Revenue seized nearly 8 million cigarettes at Dublin Port representing a loss of €5m to the Exchequer; with another major seizure of 10 million cigarettes on June 9, showing the size of the illegal tobacco market in Ireland.
The results of the Retailers Against Smuggling poll are in line with recent research from Revenue. The Illegal Tobacco Products Research Surveys 2022 found that 30% of all cigarette packs held by smokers in the country were found to be classified as illegal or Non-Irish Duty Paid, a jump of 43% from the previous year. Revenue’s research estimates that the loss to the Exchequer was a record €384 million in 2022.
National Spokesperson for Retailers Against Smuggling, Benny Gilsenan said: “It’s no surprise that the illegal cigarette trade has grown in recent years, following a cost-of-living crisis and lack of enforcement at our borders. Travel limits are poorly enforced, and our border agencies don’t have the resources required to fight smuggling at our ports and airports. With the one of the highest prices for tobacco in Europe you can see why Ireland has become a destination for criminals to sell tobacco. We can see from these figures that Revenue needs all the support it can get, we must add more scanners and personnel at entry points across the country.”
*The sample size of the poll was 1,147, with a margin of error at +/- 2.9%.