THERE is no evidence available to An Garda Síochána indicating the introduction plain packaging for all tobacco products sold in Ireland willl lead to an increase in cigarette smuggling, Assistant Garda Commissioner Derek Byrne said today.
The government wants to ensure all cigarettes boxes will be in plain packaging that requires tobacco firms to confine brand names to a very small area.
The pack will be a dull colour and will contain stark health warnings for smokers about the dangers of the habit.
Assistant Commissioner Byrne told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children today that it has been stated “by certain interested parties that the move to plain packaging may lead to an increase in the trade in illicit tobacco products in Ireland”.
“An Garda Síochána has not, however, been presented with evidence which supports this proposition.”
He said: “The quality of counterfeit goods, which are already readily available across international markets, is so good, that the identification of the authentic product is often difficult for experts in the field.
“Those involved in counterfeiting can counterfeit what they need. Changes to plain packaging are not going to impact on this.“
Gerard Moran, Assistant Secretary at the Revenue Commissioners said: “In terms of the impact of the standardised packaging legislation on the illicit cigarette market, we are satisfied that it will not damage our efforts to tackle the problem.
“We rely on our tax stamp to identify tax paid tobacco products and the standardised packaging legislation will accommodate the stamp.
“We expect that the new packaging rules will ensure effective security features to make counterfeiting very difficult; the tax stamp will certainly contain all the features possible to minimise the risk of counterfeiting.
“We are planning on the basis that Ireland will remain a very high tax country for tobacco products and are undertaking a fundamental review of our tobacco strategy over the next couple of months.”
He told the committee that the most recent survey, conducted in late 2012, found that 13pc of cigarette consumption was illicit.
It also found that a further 6pc of consumption was accounted for by cigarettes purchased abroad and brought into Ireland legitimately for personal consumption.
The comparable figure for illicit consumption in 2010 and 2011 was 14pc.
“As you can see, while we haven't been able to make dramatic inroads into the problem, it has been contained and some modest progress has been made,” he added.
He pointed out that country with high tobacco taxes has an illegal tobacco problem. Ireland, which has exceptionally high tobacco taxes and tobacco prices, has a significant problem.
“To provide some international context, the World Health Organisation estimates that 10pc of the global cigarette market is illicit and this figure rises to over 50pc in some countries,” he added.