‘Epidemic’ of illegal tobacco as 8m cigarettes seized

Limerick’s only licensed tobacconists is to stop selling cigarettes because of an “epidemic” of illegal trading of smuggled packs on city streets.

‘Epidemic’ of illegal tobacco as 8m cigarettes seized

Cahill’s in Wickham St has been trading for over 150 years. Owner, Eleanor Purcell, said: “I stock up to a 100 different brands of cigarettes. But now I find I am being driven out of the cigarette market due to the huge increase in sales of smuggled cigarettes in the city. I estimate that over the past few years my cigarette trade — which constituted 80% of my business — has plummeted to 20% of my business.”

It comes as Customs and Revenue revealed that 8m cigarettes with a retail value of over €4m were seized last weekend in Dublin Port. Detection dog Casey uncovered “the elaborate concealment of cigarettes” hidden within the glazing spaces of window frames on a Latvian-registered truck which was disembarking a ship.

The Minsk Capital, NZ Gold, and Pect brand cigarettes are believed to have originated in Belarus.

It prompted the Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) group to claim organised crime gangs will “go to any lengths to flood Ireland with illegal products”.

The group said they are being deprived of thousands of euro in revenue every week because of the ready availability of illegal cigarettes on the street.

RAS spokesman Benny Gilsenan, said: “The fact that they are now concealing their products in window frames shows that they have become very inventive in how they smuggle cigarettes into the country.

“Ireland has been flooded with illegal cigarettes and it seems like there is little being done about it at street level.”

In Limerick, Ms Purcell said she will continue to sell her huge range of expensive cigars.

“I am very sad to have to withdraw from the cigarette trade as we have seen generations of Limerick people coming into Cahills to get their cigarettes,” she said. “But the illegal smuggle cigarette traders are putting us out of the cigarette market.”

The business dates back to the 1860s. Ms Purcell’s father, Jim Purcell, who started out as an apprentice making snuff, took it over from the Cahill family 95 years ago. The shop hasn’t changed much, and today Ms Purcell offers everything from Cohiba Cuban cigars, costing €50 each, to an ounce of snuff.

“I have been running the business for the past 34 years,” she said.

“People who don’t even smoke drop in and are fascinated to find it the exact same as when they came in as children with their fathers to buy pipe tobacco, snuff, or cigarettes. But small businesses like our’s need some kind of a break to keep going.”

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