Figures from Finance Minister Michael Noonan show in 2009, 218.5 million cigarettes were seized, compared with just 95.6m in 2012, and it’s understood the figure will be considerably lower for 2013.
Garda and Revenue sources believe criminals are using more sophisticated modes of transport and smuggling illegal tobacco products in smaller individual amounts which is making them harder to detect.
Rather than one big container with hundreds of thousands of cigarettes, the criminal gangs are mixing their illegal products with legitimate goods making them harder to detect.
According to Mr Noonan, 601.6m cigarettes were seized by Revenue between 2009 and 2012, which resulted in 595 convictions, with just 76 people going to prison.
Ireland still has very high smoking levels compared to other countries. Twenty-nine per cent of the population smoke, compared to an OECD average of 21%. Around 7,000 people die of smoking-related diseases in Ireland every year and one out of every two smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease.