Tuesday 21 January 2020

Smokers suffer only Budget tax hike as cost of cigarettes increases to €11

Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The only heckle during Finance Minister Michael Noonan's Budget speech yesterday came as he announced a 50c increase in the price of cigarettes.

It means the standard box of 20 cigarettes now costs €11. The increases came into effect at midnight last night.

Charities and anti-tobacco organisations welcomed the announcement yesterday.

However, the Government has been warned that further action is needed to support smokers quitting and to prevent the illegal sale of cheaper cigarettes on the black market.

Independent Alliance minister Finian McGrath, a smoker, was one of those whose voice was raised in the Dáil yesterday when Mr Noonan announced the increase, but Mr McGrath said he has no issue with the price hike. Mr Noonan said the increase was the only tax to go up yesterday.

The Irish Cancer Society welcomed the increase and said it would act as a disincentive for people to take up or continue smoking.

Donal Buggy, head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said the 50c increase would help the Government reach its target of a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025.

Cigarettes have now increased by €1 in the past 12 months.

"Regular, sharp increases in price send a clear message to smokers that prices will continue to rise, and will act as an incentive to quit," said Mr Buggy.

"It sends a strong signal to the tobacco industry that the Government is serious about reaching its target of a tobacco -free Ireland by 2025.

"The price hike, which will mean the most popular-priced cigarettes will cost over €11 a packet, will encourage people to stop smoking and ultimately save lives."

However, he also warned that further support is needed to discourage smoking.

Research carried out by the society found that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as gums and patches, makes smokers 50pc to 70pc more likely to quit.

"Price increases, while hugely important in increasing quit rates, need to be accompanied by readily available supports for smokers to quit," Mr Buggy said.

"Making NRT available free of charge to all those enrolled in smoking cessation programmes would help ensure that the two- thirds of smokers who want to quit get the support they need."

Ash Ireland chairman Dr Patrick Doorley said research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown price is a key factor in encouraging smokers to quit.

However, he warned the Government needs to be vigilant, as the increase could lead to a rise in the sale of illicit cigarettes on the black market.

Tobacco companies have previously hit out at the volume of cigarettes that are smuggled into the country and sold at cheaper prices at a cost to the Exchequer.

"Smuggling of tobacco into this country is a major issue for Government. However, we must also be wary of tobacco industry efforts to use smuggling as a reason for not introducing effective measures which can improve the nation's health," said Dr Doorley.

"Smuggling increases consumption and addiction and therefore is of long-term benefit to the tobacco industry. There are many examples of jurisdictions where tobacco price has been increased for health reasons and smuggling simultaneously tackled and reduced - such as Australia, New Zealand and Spain."

Irish Independent

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