Meaningful enforcement measures are required to curb the enormity of illegal tobacco sales
Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) today (June 1) calls on the Government to increase enforcement measures against illegal smuggling and ringfence funding for initiatives that will meaningfully address illicit trade, at a time where 30% of tobacco products consumed in Ireland are either illegal or Non-Irish Duty Paid.
RAS notes the publication of the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill following cabinet approval, and is highly concerned by a provision within the Bill to replace the current registration system for retailers with a licensing scheme, which will add a further unnecessary administrative burden and cost on retailers.
The Bill which came before Cabinet for sign off today (June 1) by the coalition parties contains a new licensing scheme to replace the current registration system for those who sell cigarettes.
The Association asserts that efforts would be better focused on increasing enforcement measures against illegal smuggling, to adequately protect the Exchequer and retail revenues and curb youth access to tobacco products.
With the introduction of the new licensing system apply, RAS proposes that a percentage of funds collected from the licence fee is ringfenced for initiatives that will meaningfully deal with the growth of smuggling activities in the country. Recently, the UK announced a new £3 million illicit vapes enforcement squad and Revenue is in need of similar support to stop illegal tobacco and nicotine-inhaling products entering the country.
Last year alone, over 51 million cigarettes and 11 tonnes of tobacco were seized, with a combined retail value of approximately €48 million. This amount of seizures indicates the huge level of demand for illicit tobacco, and the figures are representative of those products that did not make it onto the market. In 2022, 30% of all cigarette packs held by smokers in the country were found to be classified as illegal or Non-Irish Duty Paid, representing a loss to the Exchequer of €384 million in 2022. This is a rise of 43% compared to 2021. Year after year, the significant seizures of both illegal and NIDP cigarettes demonstrate that more must be done to protect retailers and consumers.
Spokesperson for Retailers Against Smuggling Benny Gilsenan said “The cost-of-living crisis and lack of enforcement have fuelled the emergence of organised crime gangs in local communities, targeting vulnerable people as demand for cheaper illegal products grows – products that do not meet the required safety standards. For this reason, the Government must strengthen Revenue’s hand in identifying and targeting any attempts at the illegal supply or sale of illicit tobacco.”
If there must be a new license fee introduced, the fees collected from it must be used to provide more scanners, personnel and detector dogs for our ports and airports. This would send a strong message that we are serious about curbing smuggling while having the added benefit of ensuing that legitimate businesses are protected against the black market.”
About the licensing system
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 with a yet unspecified fee, instead of a once-off fee of €50 in the current tobacco registration system.