Tobacco tax rise 'tokenistic'
The 10 cents rise in tobacco duty was less than had been anticipated by Health Minister Dr James Reilly but leaves Ireland as one of the most expensive places in the world to smoke.
The Irish Cancer Society accused the Government of a tokenistic penalty and the Irish Heart Foundation branded the relatively small increase as a missed opportunity.
The additional 10 cents from midnight put Ireland among the dearest countries for tobacco with only Norway dearer in Europe at 10.91 euro and the UK coming in a close third for the price of a packet of cigarettes at 9.29 euro.
Dr Reilly, whose father and brother suffered a smoking related disease, said he wanted to see 50 cents on a packet of cigarettes in every budget.
The excise duty hike brings a packet of 20 cigarettes to about 9.50 euro.
Kathleen O'Meara, head of the cancer society's advocacy unit, said she doubted many smokers would consider a 10c increase to be the incentive they need to stop smoking.
"Our concern therefore, is that cigarette taxes are being viewed as a revenue-raiser despite the massive impact smoking has on Irish people's health and productivity, costing the economy far more than it collects in taxes," she said.
"This budget has not acknowledged that there is a corollary between high priced cigarettes and lower health expenditure."
Chris Macey, head of advocacy at the Irish heart Foundation, claimed it was a missed opportunity.
"Having argued against tax increases which are the biggest deterrent to young people taking up smoking, the cigarette companies will now jack up their prices - like they have done for each of the last 10 years - effectively transferring the extra revenue from the public purse to their own profits," he said.
But Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) claimed that even a small increase of 10 cents would benefit criminal gangs and further damage small shops who need footfall to keep the business going.
"It makes no sense whatsoever that the Government would increase the price of legal products when black market cigarettes are freely available for as little as 3.20 ," said RAS spokesman Benny Gilsenan.
"Any gains that the Government hopes to make by raising excise will be eroded by customers buying from the black market."
He added: "Ireland has one of the highest rates of cigarette smuggling in Europe and the Government is trying to deal with that problem by taxing legitimate retailers out of existence."