Charities call for 50c tax increase on cigarettes
Leading anti-smoking charities today called on the Government to hike the price of cigarettes by 50c.
The Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society want politicians to put the nail in the coffin of smoking in Ireland while increasing tax revenue in the budget.
The coalition of health bodies believes the extra tax intake and a national anti-smuggling strategy to combat the importation of illegal cigarettes would bring in an extra €152m in much-needed revenue to the state.
Kathleen O'Meara, of the Irish Cancer Society, said: "Price is widely recognised as the single most important factor in encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging young people from experimenting with tobacco.
"Our health services spend €2bn each year treating tobacco-related illness, so if we reduce prevalence we don't just save lives, we also reduce the massive cost of treating the harmful effects of smoking addiction."
There are an estimated 6,000 deaths every year from smoking-related illnesses including cancer, heart and respiratory disease. As well as a three-fold risk of heart attack, smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke as non-smokers.
The charities estimate a 50c increase in the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes or a pouch of hand-rolled tobacco would raise €85m in revenue and want €12m of that ringfenced to help smokers quit.
Stamping out the availability of cheap black-market cigarettes could save the Exchequer approximately €67m each year, they added.
Charlotte Heaphey, who had a heart attack after 36 years of smoking, said her addiction nearly left her children with a mother.
"From the age of 11, I smoked 15 cigarettes a day until I suffered a massive heart attack last year at just 46 years old," she said.
"There is no doubt in my mind that smoking played a major role in that attack, in addition to my family history of heart disease. I know first-hand that smoking nearly left my two children without a mum."
Chris Macey, of the Irish Heart Foundation, said a three-pronged approach is required to tackle smoking prevalence - price increases for tobacco products, comprehensive smoking cessation programmes and stronger smuggling controls.
"If we don't tackle smoking rates by helping people to quit, we are in grave danger of seeing the benefits of the very progressive anti-tobacco legislation we have introduced seriously undermined, with addiction and inevitably deaths from tobacco increasing," he said.
"The Government must act and the Budget is the best measure available to raise the funds necessary to embark on a serious and concerted strategy to reduce smoking rates.
"Our proposals have the potential to raise much-needed revenue for the Exchequer at these times of scarce resources and to reduce the number of people addicted to tobacco in Ireland."