Tuesday 21 May 2019

Cigarettes and sunbeds hit by price hikes to combat cancer

For most of the popular brands a pack of 20 cigarettes will now cost €12. Stock Image
For most of the popular brands a pack of 20 cigarettes will now cost €12. Stock Image
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Smokers and sunbed users are among those hardest hit in Budget 2018 as the Government introduces hikes to combat cancer rates.

However, the cost of a pint or glass of wine will stay untouched. Drink prices will also not be affected by the new sugar tax, which is only applied to non-alcoholic, water-based and juice-based drinks.

For most of the popular brands a pack of 20 cigarettes will now cost €12 after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced a 50c increase.

Proportional increases will also apply to other tobacco products. This means the cost of a pouch of roiling tobacco will also rise.

VAT on sunbed services will rise from 13.5pc to 23pc. Mr Donohoe said this was being done in line with the Government's National Cancer Strategy.

The Irish Cancer Society's head of services and advocacy, Donal Buggy, welcomed the price increases.

"The modest price increase from the VAT rise will hopefully disincentive sunbed use, particularly among young people, who are at greater risk from the harms of sunbeds.

"In the long term, we would like to see an exploration of a complete, or partial ban on sunbeds, as part of the development of the Skin Cancer Prevention Plan by the Department of Health.

"Increasing the price of cigarettes is the most effective way of stopping children from taking up smoking and encouraging people to quit. This can be seen in significantly reduced rates of smoking in Ireland among children and adults in recent years.

"Child smoking is at an all-time low of 8pc, while overall smoking prevalence is at 23pc."

Retail and smokers groups were unhappy to see cigarette prices rise.

Retailers Against Smuggling said the increases will lead to an increase in illegal tobacco products making their way to the Irish market.

Smokers' group Forest Ireland also criticised the move, calling the 50c hike a "disgraceful attack" on those who cannot afford the increase.

"Raising the price of cigarettes for the sixth consecutive budget disproportionately hurts those on lower incomes," said a spokesperson.

However, the increase was welcomed by Ash Ireland, an anti-tobacco advocacy group.

Dr Patrick Doorley, chairman of ASH Ireland, said: "Price is widely recognised internationally, and by the World Health Organisation, as the most important way of encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging young people from experimenting with tobacco.

"If the Government is to achieve its objective of establishing a smoke-free Ireland by 2025 then it must consistently increase the price of tobacco.

"Smoking levels can be further reduced over the next decade if there are consistent and significant increases in tobacco price combined with other measures such as standardised packaging.

"The possible links being raised between 'smuggling and price increase' are totally misguided and mainly fuelled by a major vested interest, the tobacco industry.

"Smuggling must be tackled as a separate and very serious criminal issue but it should not impinge on health policy and related decisions."

Irish Independent

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