20-a-day habit will cost smokers €300 a month - enough to buy a new Mercedes
Cigarettes rose by 50c a pack from midnight last night in Michael Noonan's only tax hike in his fifth budget.
It means a 20-a-day habit at €10.50 a pack will now cost a staggering €73.50 a week - or just shy of €300 per month.
That's enough to finance an entry-level Mercedes A Class - subject to a pretty hefty deposit.
The hike, widely expected, means Ireland now has the most expensive cigarettes in the EU. Overall in Europe, only Norway has more highly-taxed tobacco.
When Taoiseach Enda Kenny made his maiden speech in the Dáil in 1975, Carrolls Number I, the then market leader, was just 34p per packet of 20 and 17p for a pack of 10 - since banned in Ireland.
Smokers' group Forest Éireann described the rise as "unwarranted" and an "attack on the poor and the elderly".
But Mr Noonan said the monies raised by the excise duty hike, €61.4m, would help fund new healthcare initiatives for families.
Dr Ross Morgan, Chairman of ASH Ireland (Action on Smoking and Health), said: "If the Government is to achieve its objective of establishing a smoke-free Ireland by 2025 then it must consistently increase the price of tobacco."
Current smoking levels, at approximately 19.5pc, are down from 29pc in 2003.
The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) described the rise as "another nail in tobacco's coffin".
IHF spokesman, Chris Macey, said: "It will act as a powerful further disincentive to taking up smoking among teenagers, who tobacco companies rely on to replace those their products kill or who manage to quit."
But Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS), which represents almost 3,000 retailers, said the increase would boost tobacco smuggling.
"It beggars belief that the Government would decide to increase excise at a time when smuggling remains a huge problem and keeps severely damaging our trade," RAS spokesman, Benny Gilsenan, declared.
The price hike comes at a time when the Department of Health is carrying out a €50,000 study to help establish the true cost of smoking to the healthcare system.
Study after study has shown that smoking kills. One in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease, which in Ireland translates to at least 5,200 deaths annually.
Among the major additional costs are hospitalisation, primary care, nursing home care and medication - everything from oxygen and wheelchairs to drugs.
But there are also other non-healthcare costs, including lost productivity in the workplace from those who are ill or disabled from smoking-related diseases and unable to work.
The Irish Cancer Society says smoking takes 10 to 15 quality years off your life. In Ireland, smoking is the leading cause of avoidable death.