A LIMERICK city retailer says the availability of illegal cigarettes has caused hundreds of job losses in the retail sector this year.
James Ryan, who owns two Centra stores in the city, said the retail sector in Ireland has lost close to 700 jobs over the past 12 months.
Mr Ryan, who sits on the Executive Council of Retailers Against Smuggling, an organisation set up to combat the illicit trade, said the tobacco problem is particularly acute in the Munster area.
Referring to a survey carried out by Retailers Against Smuggling of its 3,000 retailer members nationwide, Mr Ryan said that one in 10 retailers in Munster said they had been offered illicit tobacco to sell over the past year.
“This clearly demonstrates the scale of the problem in Limerick and the rest of Munster.
“It is getting easier and easier to buy cheap, illegal cigarettes and the result is that shops are closing and that people are losing their jobs.
“I have no doubt that there will be more redundancies if this problem is not tackled,” Mr Ryan said.
In the same survey, 80% of retailers in Munster said they felt counterfeit cigarettes were ‘easily available’ in their local area.
Mr Ryan said retailers in Limerick and Munster overwhelmingly supported two measures to curb the illegal trade.
Of those surveyed, 88% wanted no increase in excise and 90% wanted the establishment of an anti-smuggling task-force.