Total value of Revenue seizures of illegal tobacco in 2023 was €58m, up from €38.7m in 2022
According to their figures, Revenue has seized €58m worth of tobacco in 2023. The total figure for 2022 was €38.7m, representing a jump of 50% in the space of a year. In 2023, seizures represented a loss of €45.1m to the Exchequer, with more than 66.5 million cigarettes found by Revenue’s scanners and detector dog teams.
Illegal tobacco sales have soared over the past year with the issue now becoming a chronic challenge. Just in November, Revenue seized nearly 15m cigarettes in counties Dublin and Louth, with a total value of €12.5m.
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.
The recent 75c hike in excise in October’s budget pushed the average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes to €16.75, with rolling tobacco costing on average €23.30. With prices on the black market reportedly around €5-6, it threatens the business of local retailers which has already drastically shrunk in recent years.
A recent poll commissioned by RAS found that 33% of Irish smokers are prepared to purchase illegal tobacco, with that figure as high as 50% among 18-34 year olds. The representative body’s poll findings highlight the impact of Ireland’s record levels of illicit trade.
This poll confirmed 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.
RAS spokesperson, Benny Gilsenan, said: “We’ve gone past the tipping point – the black market already accounts for about a third of all tobacco in Ireland. With the way things are going we wonder how long until we see the black market take half of all the trade in Ireland away from honest retailers? With the extra tax raised the government must do more to strengthen Revenue’s hand and stop illegal tobacco coming into the country.”