74% of younger smokers switch to cheap brands

Almost three in four younger smokers have switched to cheap brands of cigarettes used by tobacco companies to discourage them from quitting, according to an opinion poll conducted for the Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation.

While two thirds of smokers of all ages now choose brands based on price, that rate has risen to 74% among 18- to 24-year-olds, the countrywide poll of 1,000 adults shows.

The Irish Heart Foundation and Irish Cancer Society are proposing tax measures in their pre-budget submissions that would close the price gap between premium and cheap brands which range between €8 and €9.85.

“We are calling on the Minister for Finance to adjust the structure of tobacco taxation to ensure tax increases benefit the Exchequer, rather than the tobacco industry,” said Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cancer Society.

“Our current tobacco tax structure enables smokers to down-trade to cheaper brands rather than quit, and while this option is available, price increases will be less effective.”

In a separate poll carried out for the Irish Cancer Society, 81% of smokers said they planned to stop, with 46% citing a price increase as an effective incentive for them to quit sooner.

“Tobacco companies are absorbing tax increases and in some cases cutting prices, to keep the price of cheaper cigarette brands low, and thereby encouraging people who would otherwise give up to keep smoking” said Chris Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation.

“We know that tobacco companies in Ireland make profits of up to 55% after duties on sales, compared to regular profit margins of 12-20% for consumer goods. By changing the tax structure we can achieve the double whammy of preventing these firms from keeping smokers hooked through lower prices, while also ensuring they pay more towards the massive health costs associated with their deadly products.”

The Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation also want an annual price escalator of inflation plus 5% on cigarettes which would see the price of a pack increase by 50 cent in October’s budget.

While the rate of smoking is dropping, 21.5% of the Irish public still smoke and more needs to be done, according to Ms O’Meara.

“The onus is now on the Government to act on the evidence that price is a key factor in reducing smoking-related death,” she said.

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