I have today called for tougher measures to be introduced to crack down on the problem of black market cigarettes, which it has been revealed is costing the Exchequer an estimated €250 million a year.
The fact that we’re losing a quarter of a billion euro a year through the illegal cigarette trade cannot be ignored. Retailers Against Smuggling say this illicit trade is also costing hundreds of jobs a year due to the lost excise duties. At a time when we are forced to take some very difficult decisions, we should do all we can to tackle a trade that is depriving the Government of hundreds of millions of euro in taxes.
We need to explore what tougher measures could be implemented to crack down on cigarette smuggling. Improving scanning technology at our ports should be considered; while this would involve investment by the State, it could reap significant rewards in terms of detection.
While everyone accepts that cigarette smuggling is illegal, there also needs to be a level of personal responsibility with this issue. Buying cigarettes that you know to be smuggled is tantamount to complying with illegal activity. Consideration should be given to fining people who are found to be purchasing contraband cigarettes. If we fine people for littering, then why not for avoiding this tax?
Smoking costs society a huge amount every year. The associated health risks put our health service under huge strain, killing thousands of people every year. On top of this, the illegal side of the trade costs the State hundreds of millions a year in lost tax revenues and contraband cigarettes are known to pose significantly higher health risks. Comprehensively tackling the cigarette black market would give us more resources to invest in health prevention measures and help more people kick the habit for good.