Survey confirms Revenue findings that a third of tobacco products in the country are illegal or non-Irish Duty Paid
33% of Irish smokers are prepared to purchase illegal tobacco, according to a new poll commissioned by Retailers Against Smuggling. The representative body’s poll findings highlight the impact of Ireland’s record levels of illicit trade.
This poll confirms Revenue’s findings (Illegal Tobacco Products Research Survey) that 30% of tobacco products consumed in Ireland are either illegal or Non-Irish Duty Paid. This showed a dramatic rise of 43% compared to 2021, and represented a loss to the Exchequer of €384 million last year.
The poll, carried out by Ireland Thinks, between the 21st and 25th of September, 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:
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.
Under the Public Health Bill, the new licensing system will require a retailer who wishes to sell tobacco products or nicotine inhaling products to apply for an annual licence for each outlet with a yet unspecified fee, instead of a once-off fee of €50 in the current registration system. This new system will add further unnecessary administrative burden and cost on retailers.
RAS is calling for at least 30% of the funds collected from the licence fee to be ringfenced for initiatives that will meaningfully deal with the growth of smuggling activities in the country. Currently, Revenue has 23 detector dog teams and three mobile x-ray scanners. With more than 1.2 million freight vehicles and trailers passing through the three main Irish ports last year, Revenue faces a mammoth task in detecting contraband being smuggled into the country and so meaningful resources are desperately needed against this backdrop.
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. With one of the highest prices for tobacco in Europe you can see why Ireland has become a destination for criminals to sell tobacco. This new licence fee will put a strain on already squeezed retailers. Government must use at least a third of this money to help protect us against the black market, and support Revenue with more scanners and personnel at entry points across the country.”
The survey sample size was 1,060; with a margin of error: +/- 3.1 per cent