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Hit smokers with 60c price hike in Budget, Noonan urged

ANTI-smoking campaigners are calling on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to add on 60c to the price of a 20-pack of cigarettes in next month's Budget.

ASH Ireland is also demanding that the taxation measures be imposed on "roll-your-own-tobacco" in Budget 2013.

More than 900,000 people still light up six billion times annually, posing a huge danger to their health.

"This of course leads to addiction, significant tobacco-related illness and the death of 5,700 of our citizens every year," Dr Ross Morgan, chairman of ASH Ireland, said.

"One in two people who smoke will die because of this and it is incumbent on the Government to take a leadership role and increase prices and, in doing so, reduce prevalence."

He said a "significant price increase is established and accepted as the most potent weapon against smoking".

"Significant price increase encourages smokers to quit and discourages young people from commencing the habit," he said.

Other Budget demands include:

• The removal of VAT from all nicotine-replacement patches. In Britain, VAT on the products has been reduced to 5pc. It means that there is a significant price difference between these products on sale in Ireland and in the UK.

• Impose a 50c "environmental levy" on all tobacco products, to be paid by the tobacco industry, "as a way of recouping the massive cost associated with dealing with tobacco litter".

• Plough €5m a year into tackling cigarette smuggling over the next five years.

"It is imperative that the Government continues to take all possible measures that can reduce smoking levels and also reduce the €1.5bn annual spend on treating tobacco-related disease," Dr Morgan said.

"The fight against tobacco and addiction is an ongoing challenge, as we are dealing with an industry which will do everything possible to recruit and retain smokers, so that their massive profits can be increased.

"Successive governments have made significant inroads but they must sustain their efforts, or we will see smoking levels and deaths from tobacco increase, and expenditure on tobacco-related disease increase."

Irish Independent