The Irish health minister, frustrated by delays in his anti-smoking plans to force tobacco companies to use plain unbranded packaging on cigarettes, has now announced plans to push the price of a single packet of cigarettes up to €20 (£16/$27).
The Irish Times reports the move, which is part of his policy for “a tobacco-free Ireland,” which includes legislation to ban 7,000 cigarette vending machines and a new tax on retailers to discourage them from selling tobacco.
Health minister Dr James Reilly has told the Health Ireland Council he wants the price of cigarettes to be doubled to €1 each, pushing the price to €20 per pack.
He reiterated his aim to cut smoking rates to under 5 per cent by 2025. According to the Irish Times, “Currently, 22 per cent of the population smoke, down from 29 per cent a decade earlier when the smoking ban was introduced.”
Ireland was the first country in the world to ban smoking in all public buildings, work places, bars and restaurants. The ban was introduced in 2004, with on the spot fines of up to €3,000 (£2,400).
However, Reilly’s plans to double the price of cigarettes may play into the hands of criminal gangs. As Breitbart London reported earlier this month, one Irish tobacco manufacturing executive warned that the plan to force cigarettes to be sold in plain white packs with no logo and not branding would play into the hands of the criminal gangs “who profit from counterfeit tobacco; their job will be significantly easier now that all tobacco products are intended to be sold in the same generic packaging.”
Now the health minister is planning a huge price hike in the midst of an international epidemic of bootleg tobacco driven by increased government taxation meant to discourage smoking.
According to the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee, 28.3 per cent of all tobacco in the country is sold without tax being paid.
Last week Irish revenue officials seized 32m bootleg cigarettes worth €14m (£11.2m) in County Louth, north of Dublin.