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Three years ago Retail Express visited Ireland and heard directly from retailers how much the tobacco display ban was boosting the illicit trade after just nine months. Today almost one in every three cigarettes smoked in Ireland is illicit – costing the country (Euros)800million a year in lost taxes.
This week retailers in Dublin and Cork told us what it will mean for their business now that Ireland is set to become the second country in the world after Australia to put tobacco in plain, unbranded packaging.
They accused Ireland’s Health Minister James Reilly of “taking the easy option” instead of tackling the illicit trade, and said it will cause stock and ordering “headaches” for shops, but also that it will not stop people from smoking.
Last month the UK’s Health Minister Jeremy Hunt said it was hard to assess the evidence around plain tobacco packaging, given that Australia only brought in plain packs at the start of the year. However, the UK Government has not ruled out plain packaging for tobacco, and with Ireland now following Australia’s lead, it brings the reality of hardline tobacco legislation that much closer to home.
Tobacco suppliers have vowed to challenge the move, with John Freda, general manager of JTI Ireland, saying that Mr Reilly’s announcement was beset by a “complete absence of credible evidence” to demonstrate plain packaging would lead to a reduction in youth smoking.
Andrew Meagher, managing director of John Player, said: “Ireland is known as a smugglers’ paradise due to our high levels of illicit trade. We expect the situation to worsen considerably as a result of this move, placing further pressures on retailers and government tax revenues.”
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