A special campaign is to be mounted in airports from next month aimed at cutting down on illegal cigarette smuggling, which is costing the State millions of euro in lost revenue.
Smuggling is also depriving retailers of revenue and an umbrella organisation representing them is behind the campaign.
Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) is planning to start its campaign in Cork Airport and on the Dublin-Cork Aircoach with posters warning that cigarette smuggling is a criminal offence.
It then plans to roll out the poster campaign in other airports and on other Aircoach routes.
RAS spokesman Benny Gilsenan said cigarette smuggling is nearly as big an issue in Cork Airport as it is in Dublin Airport.
“Cork is a major hub,” said Mr Gilsenan. “We have people on the ground who keep us fully informed about what’s happening there. The market [in Cork] is very lucrative.”
RAS aims to use the busy summer period to show that bringing home cigarettes and tobacco from other countries and selling them in Ireland seriously undermines smaller retailers all across the country.
Last year, the Revenue’s Illegal Tobacco Products Research Surveys showed there were 412m contraband cigarettes in the Irish market and an estimated 9% of roll-your-own tobacco here was also contraband.
Mr Gilsenan, who runs a newsagents close to Croke Park in Dublin, said this means that legitimate retailers who have paid taxes and duties to sell such items have lost a significant portion of their trade to the black market. He said this had resulted in significant drop-off in revenues.
“Five years ago cigarettes sales represented 44% of my turnover,” he said. “That has now dropped to 33% because of smuggling and a lot of small shops are in a similar boat.”
He said the retail price of a 30g packet of Samson roll-your-own tobacco is €15. But smugglers are bringing in 50g packets of Samson from abroad and selling them for €10 each.
The retail cost of an average price of a packet of cigarettes here is €11.30.
This is the second highest price in the whole of Europe, just slightly behind Norway.
Cigarettes prices in some other European countries, such as Spain, Italy, and Malta, are far cheaper, while in many Eastern Europe states they are considerably cheaper again.
Excise duty and Vat accounts for 78.7% on every packet of cigarettes sold here.
The illicit trade in tobacco, alcohol, and solid fuel, which is estimated to have cost the Irish exchequer €2.4bn since 2010.
A person found with more than €10,000 in drugs could face up to 14 years in jail.
If they had €10,000 of illegal cigarettes or even more, they would probably get just a fine.
“A jail sentence is extremely rare for cigarette smuggling,” Mr Gilsenan said.
“Hard-working retailers are deprived of legitimate tobacco sales and footfall that can have a major effect on profits and jobs, in a market where 10% of the packs held by smokers are currently classified as illegal.
“Our campaign is designed to deter people who may be tempted to resell tobacco in Ireland without recognising the damage that this causes to shops nationwide.”
The new campaign posters will be launched in Cork on July 3 by Fine Gale senator Jerry Buttimer.
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