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Young ones smoking rollies again

IT now costs as much as €8.45 to puff -- or cough -- your way through a packet of cigarettes, so it's no wonder more and more smokers, and students especially, are rolling their own.

Sales of John Player & Sons' Golden Virginia rolling tobacco have lit up by about 20 per cent so far this year. Tesco Ireland reports an increase of 10 per cent, while other market sources indicate rolling tobacco sales are up by about 14 per cent.

One emerging trend is that people smoke rollies during the week and then cigarettes at the weekend, according to a spokeswoman for John Player & Sons.

Tobacco firms are also increasingly targeting hard-up students with new packaging similar to that of cigarettes, in a box also containing the papers.

"They're particularly popular with young girls, who roll up and have them in the box ready to smoke. It also means they can be bought from vending machines," said Liam Buckley, a former cash and carry manager for wholesalers BWG who now manages NUI Galway's campus shop.

The market for "rollies" is worth about €75m here according to retail figures, representing about four per cent of the €1.8bn overall tobacco market -- about 80 per cent of which smokers cough up to the taxman.

The grey market is also doing a roaring trade however -- it has dented the legal tobacco market by about 5 per cent, retailers say, denying the taxman some funds.

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