Thursday 23 May 2019

Cigarette sales are predicted to rise as ban on packs of 10 misfires

LARISSA NOLAN

CIGARETTE sales will rise instead of fall a result of the ban on packs of 10, according to the tobacco industry.

The aim of the Government ban - which means only packs of 20 cigarettes can be sold in Ireland - is to price teenagers out of the market, by pushing the cost over €7.

But it will only encourage moderate smokers to smoke more and ultimately increase overall consumption, according to a spokesperson for one of Ireland's biggest cigarette companies.

Corporate affairs manager for John Player & Sons Deirdre Healy told the Sunday Independent: "We expect cigarettes sold per day to rise.

"Many adult smokers used to buy a 10-pack every day, in order to manage their consumption. If only 20s are available, the temptation is to smoke more."

Ms Healy said it was too early yet for sales data, since the ban only kicked in on May 31, but she explained Ireland was even more likely to see a rise in overall sales than other countries - as our sales of 10-packs was 11 times higher than other EU nations.

"When France introduced a ban on 10s last January, practically all volumes of 10s transferred into 20s," said Ms Healy. "Based on this precedent, we expect a similar pattern to occur in Ireland and have allowed for extra stocks accordingly.

"Only three per cent of the French cigarette market was in 10s, while in Ireland it was 33 per cent. They were popular with adults as a way to control consumption."

A spokesman for the Department of Health's Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) vigorously defended the 10-pack ban, saying it is particularly aimed at cutting very young people - those in the early teens - out of the market.

"Packs of 10 are a gateway to smoking - in the US they are actually called 'kiddie packs'. Some could argue that the difference between €3 and €7 won't put 17-year-olds off, but there is no doubt that it will deter 12- and 13-year-olds.

"Furthermore, all studies have shown that price is key to reducing the number of smokers. Anything we can do to deter young people from starting and stop people smoking is worthwhile."

Smoking studies show that two-thirds of smokers under the age of 17 buy 10-packs, while two-thirds of over 25s purchase 20s.

Mary Lacey, who runs the nicotine addiction programme at the Rutland Centre, also believes the 10-pack ban may backfire and actually encourage kids to smoke.

"It is cheaper to buy a pack of 20 than it is to buy two packs of 10, so younger people will now just club together to buy them," she said. "There will be a social element to buying them in a gang and sharing them out."

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