A CHARITY helping people to stop smoking has launched a scathing attack on the Government over policies that make nicotine therapies cost up to three times as much as they do in the North.
Thousands of people will attempt to kick the habit as the new year begins, many choosing to do so with the help of a wide range of medical supports.
But an Irish Independent survey has found nicotine patches, gum and lozenges cost far more in the Republic than they do across the Border.
Anti-smoking campaigners claim the availability of products in pharmacies only is keeping prices artificially high.
They want the department to instruct the Medicines Board to allow products to be sold in shops and supermarkets to allow open competition, which will reduce prices.
We found one branded product – 96 Nicotinel lozenges containing 2mg of nicotine – costs €35 in Boots Chemists in the South. But the exact same packet costs just £10.99 (€13.30) in Boots in the North. That's a difference of €21.70.
Nicorette Icy White 2mg gum, which comes in packs of 105, cost just £9.97 (€12.06) in Boots in Derry, but an astonishing €29 in the same chemist chain in Letterkenny.
Stricter guidelines on the sale of medicines in the Republic also mean that own-brand therapies cannot be sold in shops and supermarkets, unlike in the North, where both Boots and Tesco sell their own-brand generic nicotine products for even cheaper prices.
Reacting to the price survey, Action on Smoking and Health ( ASH) criticised the 23pc VAT on nicotine products in the south. In the UK, the government there has kept VAT at 5pc.
"It is well-established that up to 70pc of smokers wish to quit. It is vital that these people are facilitated in every possible way in their endeavours," said a spokesman for the group.
Meanwhile, health chiefs have urged smokers to make a new year's resolution to quit. With 5,500 expected to die from a tobacco-related illness in Ireland in 2013, the HSE insisted quitting is easier with the right support. A HSE 'You Can Quit' page on Facebook is made up of past, present and future quitters.