Revenue 2021 Annual Report confirms a record year for cigarette and tobacco seizures
Counterfeit cigarettes now account for 7% of all illegal packs held by Irish smokers, indicating the likely operation of illegal tobacco factories on the island of Ireland. That’s the concern raised by Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) reacting to the latest Tobacco Products Research Survey published by Revenue as part of its 2021 Annual Report.
Commenting on the report which confirms a record year for Revenue tobacco and cigarette seizures, RAS national spokesperson Benny Gilsenan said: “It’s no small coincidence that the percentage share of counterfeit cigarettes on the black market has increased in tandem with a huge spike in volume of loose and roll your own tobacco seized by Revenue last year. RAS members had previously warned that the sharp rise of loose tobacco being seized indicates first-hand the likely operation of large-scale illegal cigarette factories in Ireland. Now we are seeing the consequence of this smuggling and illegal manufacturing activity in the form of increased counterfeit product in the possession of Irish smokers.”
Counterfeit cigarettes are cigarettes manufactured without authorisation of the rightful owners, with intent to deceive consumers and to avoid paying duty. The majority (89%) of illegal cigarettes held by Irish smokers are classified as contraband meaning they are normal, commercial brands of bought duty paid or duty-free outside Ireland and smuggled in. In total, Revenue seized over 38 tonnes of loose and roll your own tobacco product in 2021 representing a 431% increase compared to 2020.
Mr Gilsenan added: “There is simply no way that the volume of tobacco seized in 2021 was intended for direct resale via small time criminals on the street. The simple reality is that sophisticated and well financed organised crime gangs are behind these operations, exploiting growing demand among consumers for more affordable cigarette products. With the black market becoming more lucrative each year, these criminal gangs are determined to continuously adapt and find new creative means to bring illicit product into the country including the operation of illegal manufacturing facilities.”
Concluding, Mr Gilsenan said: “We must applaud the ongoing efforts by Revenue officials in the fight against tobacco smuggling particularly at Ireland’s major points of entry including our ports and airports. A record year for seizures last year is a testament of these efforts and key to this success is Revenue’s commitment to extensive collaboration with international counterparts to detect the trade routes criminal gangs are using to import illicit product. However, we’re a long way off from resolving the smuggling challenge which remains a significant treat to registered and legitimate retailers who are struggling to compete with a growing black market.”