Plain cigarette packaging ‘could boost illegal trade’

A new report which found the illegal tobacco trade is booming has warned that the introduction of plain packaging could boost demand for illicit cigarettes — at a time when the Government is planning to ban branding.

High cigarette prices, low criminal penalties, and lack of controls on the blackmarket are behind Ireland’s third place ranking out of 17 European countries for illegal tobacco penetration. Ireland is the second dearest country in Europe to buy cigarettes.

The report by Italian research centre Transcrime, entitled Factbook on the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Product, said smokers here are shifting to cheaper products, such as hand-rolled tobacco and illicit tobacco, “which is widely available in Ireland”.

The report makes recommendations including the introduction of a mandatory tracking and tracing system for all manufacturers, and a national public awareness campaign to raise awareness among Irish consumers about cigarette smuggling.

The report will be launched in Dublin this morning by Fine Gael TD Damien English, chair of the joint Oireachtas committee on jobs, enterprise, and innovation.

Mr English said the report was timely and cautionary.

“I note the report’s views on government’s proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes in Ireland next year and the concerns put forward on the potential for this to increase illicit trade,” he said.

These issues need to be addressed as the legislative process proceeds through the Oireachtas, he said.

Earlier this month 10.4m cigarettes were seized at Dublin Port.


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