50c cigarette hike a ‘bonus for criminals’

50c cigarette hike a ‘bonus for criminals’

John Mallon of the Smokers' Rights group, Forest Ireland

A CORK advocate for smokers’ rights has branded the latest increases in tax on tobacco as “a bonus for the criminal community”.

The excise duty on a packet of 20 cigarettes increased by 50 cents (including Vat) as of midnight last night, with a pro-rata increase on the other tobacco products. There was also an extra 25c added to ‘roll your own’ tobacco.

The moves are expected to bring an additional €59.4m into the exchequer.

An extra €2.4m is expected to be generated by a move to increase minimum excise duty on tobacco products so that all cigarettes sold below €11 will have the same excise applied as cigarettes sold at €11.

John Mallon of smokers’ group Forest Ireland believes the move will drive smokers abroad or to the black market.

“Even the most respectable smoker will look again at where they buy,” he said.

“It is a bit crazy. This is the 23rd out of 27 budgets that there has been an increase, where does it end? It is ridiculous.

“They won’t make it illegal, they are quite happy to take the taxes that will accrue.”

He also said the increases would have a disproportionate effect on poorer smokers and added that the Government made the move despite knowing that a high proportion of smokers are from poorer sections of society.

He said no other group is treated like smokers.

“Is there another majority you can treat this way?” he asked. “We are supposed to be an inclusive society, except for smokers.

“They are hunted and penalised all the time, all while bringing in revenue.”

However, the Irish Cancer Society said the price increases will save lives.

Donal Buggy, head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “The Irish Cancer Society is pleased that the price of cigarettes continues to increase. The price rise will encourage people to stop smoking and ultimately save lives.”

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