Smuggled cigarettes account for third of packs sold here
Cigarettes smuggled into the country by organised crime and terror gangs now account for up to a third of all tobacco products sold in the Republic - costing the Exchequer hundreds of millions in lost revenue each year.
An "empty pack survey", which examined discarded cigarette packs in 10 towns and cities across the country last year, found that between 25pc and 32pc were illegal.
As part of the survey, funded by the world's four largest tobacco manufacturers, a market research agency randomly collected empty packs from streets and easy access bins.
It found that Drogheda had the highest prevalence of non-duty paid cigarettes which accounted for 32.5pc of packets analysed.
According to the same survey Limerick, Sligo and Navan also saw big increases in the number of illicit tobacco products being sold and averaged at just over 30pc.
A second survey involving the test purchase of cigarettes and rolling tobacco in seven locations found that the cheapest pack of smuggled cigarettes cost €4.
The illegal products were bought in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and eight towns and villages in Co Donegal with so-called "illicit whites" - the product of choice for most smuggling gangs - accounting for 62pc of all purchases made.
That enquiry was carried out by two former senior police officers from Ireland and the UK on behalf of tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris Limited.
The survey was based on test purchases of illicit tobacco from retailers, market traders, pubs and mini-cab offices over three-day periods.
The largest purchases by volume were made in the markets in Drogheda and Moore Street in Dublin.
Smuggled tobacco was also bought in a number of butcher shops in Limerick and two barbers in Waterford.
Former Garda Chief Superintendent Kevin Donohoe, who supervised the test purchase survey, said it proved that illegal tobacco can be easily obtained throughout the country.
"Overall our test purchasers found that illicit tobacco can be easily purchased in all areas of the counties they visited," he told the Irish Independent.
In 2012 a survey undertaken by IPSOS MRBI found that 13pc of cigarettes in Ireland were illegal.