THE Government needs to appoint a regulator to limit the profits of the tobacco industry and generate around €150m a year for the Exchequer.
The call was made today by the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society when they outlined their pre-Budget submissions to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
The regulator would limit the amount of profit tobacco companies can make and any additional surplus made would have to go to the State.
Chris Macey, the Irish Heart Foundation's head of advocacy, said this system has "worked effectively for other industries".
He added: "It would mean the tobacco manufacturers had less money to invest in smooth marketing techniques, public relations agencies and other initiatives aimed at undermining the Government’s efforts to reduce the smoking rate."
He said the tobacco industry is earning higher profits in Ireland than in other European countries, even though the price of packet of cigarettes is cheaper here than in the UK.
He estimated that €150m would cover the wages of 4,167 extra nurses, 4,853 new primary school teachers, 5,480 new Garda recruits, 7,188 new special needs assistants; 165,000 extra hospital bed days, or 100 new MRI scanners.
In Ireland, the Government has been taking about 79pc of the price of a packet of cigarettes in tax and the rest of the price goes to the tobacco industry.
"In the UK, the Government has taken about 90pc of the price of a packet of cigarettes, leaving the tobacco industry with a much smaller profit margin. In monetary terms, the tobacco industry has been earning roughly €1 more per packet of cigarettes in Ireland than it does in the UK."
John McCormack, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society said over the last 10 years, major brand cigarettes are now more expensive than in Ireland – more than €9.30 at current exchange rates, compared to €9.20 here.
"In this time the UK smuggling rate has fallen from 21pc to 9pc - less than half the rate here."
He said:"High smuggling rates must be tackled to cut off the supply of cheap tobacco that is increasing numbers of young smokers. We must give Customs, which has lost hundreds of staff in recent years, and the similarly hard-pressed Garda, the manpower and equipment, along with the tough justice in the courts, required to deal with smuggling."