LIMERICK has the third highest level of illegal cigarettes in the country, new figures have shown.
According to research carried out for the second quarter of 2012 by brand protection experts MS Intelligence, almost four in every ten cigarettes on the city’s streets have not had duty paid on them.
This is well above the national average of just under three in ten.
A spokesman for the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee (ITMAC) blamed the increase on the government’s like in VAT and excise.
This has pushed the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes to more than €9.
“The government clearly do not see the illegal tobacco trade as serious an issue as they made it out to be in their Programme for Government where fine increases and jail sentences were promised to help fight the flow of illegal cigarettes into the country. All we have see is the fines and punishments staying the same and no decrease in the amount of illegal cigarettes available freely on every street corner in the country,” the spokesman said.
They also added that Ireland is a target for international crime gangs due to the paltry fines, “and the ease at which illegal cigarettes can be sold here. This is costing Ireland hundreds of millions every year, it’s bringing crime into the community and it’s selling a product that is circumventing the Department of Health guidelines. This figures just reinforce the fact that the problem is not going away.”
Some 37.5% of the cigarettes on Limerick’s city streets have not had duty paid on them, the survey found.
In order to arrive at their results, the survey team spot-tested more than 5,000 empty discarded cigarette packets collected between April 15 and May 5.
Limerick was only behind Waterford and Newbridge.
The lowest find of illegal cigarettes came from Dun Laoire in Co Dublin.
Cllr Richard Butler called on the gardai and customs to put a special focus on Limerick: “They need to put these people out of business as quickly as possible. They are doing huge damage to the traders paying rates,” he said.