Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Call for higher taxes on cigarettes

The Government has been urged to increase tax on cigarettes by one euro in a bid to reduce smoking-related deaths
The Government has been urged to increase tax on cigarettes by one euro in a bid to reduce smoking-related deaths

Health chiefs have called for a one-euro tax hike on a packet of cigarettes in the Budget in a bid to cut the number of smoking-related deaths by 15,000.

The Irish Heart Foundation claimed that the increase would reduce the number of smokers in Ireland by 30,000.

Chief executive Michael O'Shea highlighted that since one in two smokers die from the habit, thousands of lives could be saved.

He urged the Government not to make the same mistakes as the last administration, which imposed a tax freeze for two years, claiming it had been guilty of a spectacular policy failure.

The IHF also claimed research, conducted by Landman Economics, disproved the previous government's belief that a tax increase on cigarettes would result in a rise of smuggling illicit cigarettes into the country. Report author Howard Reed said despite major tax increases from 1995 to 2005, smuggling rates remained unchanged.

The research found that a tax rise in the next Budget would bring in 68 million euro (£59 million) in extra receipts and a further 28 million euro (£25 million) in indirect public finance benefits.

Mr O'Shea said: "If we invest a portion of this extra income in a national tobacco control strategy, including funding for anti-smuggling measures and more realistic tobacco cessation measures, we can make savings in lives and money on an even greater scale."

Attacking the last administration's freeze on taxes, he went on: "This represents a spectacular policy failure by the last government and their officials."

The Irish Heart Foundation will submit the findings of its report to the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to urge them to take action in December's Budget.

He said: "We will be asking for a meeting. We hope they will listen to what we're saying and that they carry out the recommendations of the report. Lives are at stake and we need the money."

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