Low fines make for a 'cigarette smugglers' paradise'
THE average fine for handling illegal cigarettes was just €423 during the first three months of the year, new figures reveal.
The paltry size of the fine last night prompted calls to end Ireland's reputation as a cigarette smugglers' paradise.
The tobacco industry is among those who want stiffer penalties imposed on smugglers and sellers of illegal cigarettes.
Figures released by the Revenue Commissioners showed that the fines handed down by the courts to those convicted in the first three months of the year.
A breakdown of the revenue statistics reveals that Dublin, Louth and Kerry top the list for cigarette convictions.
Penalties were imposed in 11 counties, with 43pc of convictions recorded in Dublin, 11pc in Louth and 8.5pc in Kerry, while the rest were divided between Clare, Wexford, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny, Cavan, Waterford and Kildare.
The manufacturers said last night the figures showed the geographic spread of the market for the smuggled cigarettes, which were estimated by the authorities to cost the Exchequer €500m every year in lost revenue. The total combined hauls of cigarettes confiscated at Dublin airport alone since the start of the year has reached more than 13 million.
A spokesman for the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee said: "This evidence highlights that, with continued insufficient penalties, Ireland will remain a smugglers' paradise".