EU ruling 'will spark cigarette price war'
A NEW court ruling could spark a price war on cigarettes in Ireland with disastrous effects for people's health, anti-smoking group Ash Ireland has warned.
The European Court of Justice yesterday declared that Ireland cannot set minimum prices for tobacco because it distorts competition and benefits manufacturers.
Although this is an interim opinion, it could open the way for cigarette sellers to start discounting heavily on price, which could lead to more young people taking up the habit and reducing the incentive to quit, said Dr Angie Brown of Ash.
Yesterday's declaration came as an opinion by the European Court's Advocate General, but this is usually in line with the final court judgement. The Office of Tobacco Control said it was considering the ruling.
In 2006, the European Commission said setting minimum retail prices for cigarettes was contrary to EU law because it limited the freedom of manufacturers to set prices. The Commission took Ireland to the European Court in May 2008.
Around €6.50 of the selling price of a packet of cigarettes goes to the government, and around €1.50 is shared between the retailer and manufacturer.