A group representing smokers is hitting out at a proposal for a 50c budget hike in the cost of a pack of cigarettes.
The suggestion has come in a joint initiative from the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society, who also want to see a 25% levy applied to the profits of tobacco firms.
The groups have said the money could go towards covering the cost to the health service of treating smoking related illnesses.
Speaking on the proposed new levy Chris Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation said it defied reason that companies whose products are responsible for the deaths of over 5,000 people and cost an estimated half a billion euro in direct health expenditure alone every year are then allowed to extract excessive profits out of Ireland.
“In effect the State is subsidising an industry that is killing large numbers of its citizens,” said Macey.
“We believe tobacco companies should be held to account and forced to pay the price of helping people to quit and should also contribute more to the cost of the health catastrophe they continue to inflict on the people of this country.”
Kathleen O’Meara of the Irish Cancer Society added: “Permitting such high levels of profit also creates an incentive for powerful tobacco multinationals to fight measures such as plain packaging legislation that hit them in the pocket by reducing smoking rates and discouraging young people from starting to smoke.”
However, John Mallon from Forest Eireann has said tobacco companies would not be the ones footing the bill.
“Any levy applied to a manufacturer ends up out on the retail end,” said Mallon.
“We saw yesterday in Limerick, a tobacco shop that’s been open for over 100 years is deciding they can’t sell cigarettes any longer.”
“They put it down to the illicit trade and so do we.”