Sales soar for loose tobacco as smokers cut costs
PEOPLE'S wages have gone up in smoke since the recession began -- and they're turning to cheaper loose tobacco to cut down on the cost of smoking.
But tax receipts from tobacco still rose to a record €1.2bn last year, with a total of 4,893 tonnes of tobacco smoked during the 12-month period.
Figures show the amount of loose tobacco being sold jumped by 60pc between 2008 and last year.
Data for 2010 is not yet available, but is expected to show another increase as people's disposable income decreases.
However, Professor Luke Clancy of charity ASH warned that it may be a false economy as rolled tobacco is actually similar in price per gram to cigarettes.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show that although the amount of cigarettes being sold each year has dropped dramatically since 2002, the revenue obtained from tobacco sales has been steadily rising.
In 2002, sales of cigarettes went from 7.02 billion actual cigarettes to 6.3 billion in 2003.
In 2009, preliminary figures show that a total of 4.6 billion cigarettes were sold. This compares to 1999 when a total of 6.87 billion cigarettes were sold.
Prof Clancy said the figures proved that if taxes on tobacco products increase, use goes down and revenue goes up.
"Clearly there's been a very significant fall in the amount of tobacco smoked," he said.
"It's very important that the Government makes sure that there's no financial incentive for people to roll their own."
He believes there should be another price increase in December's Budget which would have a double benefit of discouraging people from smoking, and raising much-needed revenue for the Government.
Currently, the average packet of 20 cigarettes costs €8.50. This includes €5.22 in excise duty and €1.48 in VAT.
The figures show the amount of cigars being smoked has also fallen from 82,644kg in 2001 to 38,169kg last year.
Other tobacco products -- including pressed tobacco for pipes -- have fallen in popularity. A total of 65,878kg were sold in 1999, but just 25,970kg in 2008. However, this rose by 1,627kg in 2009.