Hike in tobacco taxes demanded
Published 04/03/2010 | 14:58
Health chiefs have demanded the Government immediately hike tobacco taxes after European judges ruled that state-controlled minimum pricing is illegal.
The Irish Cancer Society said the ban by the Luxembourg court could bring down the cost of cigarettes and encourage smoking.
Kathleen O'Meara, the charity's head of advocacy and communications, called for the Government to act quickly to protect public health policy.
"They must continue to maintain high prices by increasing tax on cigarettes and loose tobacco," she said.
"Second, they must bring in legislation immediately to prohibit tobacco manufacturers from selling tobacco products at a loss."
Anti-smoking lobby group Ash Ireland said price was the single most important factor in getting people to quit.
Dr Angie Brown said: "Ireland has and is permitted to have a separate tax regime to all other EU countries - and it is our view that the government has every right to apply taxes which ensures that tobacco is sold at current and even higher prices.
"Price is well established as the most important measure in encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging young people from starting to smoke and we must always bear this in mind when legislating on tobacco price.
"Smoking kills 7,000 people in this country each year and costs the exchequer over one billion euro in treating tobacco related illness and disease - and we must ensure than neither of these alarming statistics are increased."
Tobacco and cigarette smuggling has become a massive black-market money-spinner for crime gangs in the last few years. It is estimated that up to a quarter of cigarettes smoked in Ireland are illegal.