Date: 
August 21, 2014

Tobacco companies are the source of over 90% of smuggled tobacco in Ireland: Irish Cancer Society

The Irish Cancer Society has applauded the Revenue Commissioners for the drop in the rate of tobacco smuggling into Ireland but is expressing concern at the revealing statistics* that show that Big Tobacco is the source of 90 percent of cigarettes coming illegally into the country.

Contraband cigarettes, which are manufactured by big tobacco companies are being smuggled into Ireland, usually from countries where tobacco prices are lower, and sold on the black market here at a price much cheaper than legally-sold cigarettes.

“The level of contraband cigarettes coming into Ireland strongly suggests that Big Tobacco is deliberately flooding low tax economies with their own brands which then mysteriously find their way into economies such as the UK and Ireland where the price of cigarettes is kept much higher in order to discourage smoking, especially by children”, said Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy & Communications.

“However, and despite what Big Tobacco is constantly alleging, the amount of counterfeit tobacco, usually manufactured in China or the Middle East, coming into Ireland is negligible compared to contraband cigarettes”, she said.

“Ireland is not a haven for counterfeit tobacco but instead Big Tobacco allows its own brands to come into Ireland illegally, deliberately to recruit young smokers whom they need to replace quitters and those dying from smoking.”

In the UK, investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have led to a drop in the rate of smuggled contraband cigarettes from 31 per cent in 2003 to 6 per cent in 2010.

“Why then is the rate of contraband cigarettes in Ireland a staggering 91.7 per cent according to Revenue figures?

“We are asking for an investigation into why the level of contraband is so high in Ireland and specifically we want the supply chains of these contraband cigarettes investigated. This has happened in the UK where it has been proven that tobacco companies themselves are complicit in allowing their own brands into illegal supply chains”, said Ms O’Meara.

An investigation into the tobacco industry showed that in Ukraine in 2008, the four biggest manufacturers produced and imported 30 billion more cigarettes than what the local market can consume. This 30 billion then disappeared bound for the black market in Western Europe.

“It’s time for the government to wake up to the double talk of the tobacco industry which on the one hand lobbies hard against price increases, claiming that it encourages smuggling, while at the same time allowing its own product into the illegal markets”, she said.

*Revenue Commissioners, “Cigarette Consumption Survey 2013”, concludes “of the 12% of packs classified as illegal, 11% were classified as contraband and 1% as “illicit whites”. No counterfeit packs were recorded in the survey.”