A third of cigarettes smoked in Westmeath are illegal

National survey of discarded packets found Drogheda, Tallaght and Athlone have highest incidence



30 July 2013

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A new survey has highlighted the rise in illegal cigarette smuggling in the Irish market. The survey was undertaken between April and June of this year by MS Intelligence which specialises in brand and intellectual property protection. The survey of discarded cigarette packs on the streets and in bins in Athlone found that 32.4% were non-domestic, meaning they had no Irish duty-paid stamp on them and so were illegal. Athlone was ranked third of 22 cities and towns surveyed across the country and was well above the national average of 27.9%.

The current figure of 32.4% for Athlone is a huge increase on the same survey six months ago when it was measured at 23.9%. The highest incidence of illegal cigarettes in 22 major population centres across the country was found in Drogheda; 32.8%, Tallaght; 32.8% and Athlone; 32.4%. The lowest level was found in Clonmel with 19.6%. The overall figure for Dublin was 27.4%, for Cork was 30.3% and for Limerick was 27.2%.

The national survey information was gathered through collecting a sample of 5,000 discarded packages from the streets and easy access bins across the country. From the sample, 100 of the discarded packs were collected in Athlone.

Joe Sweeney, president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) in Ireland said: "The huge scale of the illegal cigarette trade in Westmeath has reached a level where it is destroying local jobs due to the drop in revenue from legal tobacco sales. Retail newsagents’ shops depend heavily on legal tobacco sales to also drive additional purchases. Illegal tobacco sales lead to a loss of footfall which hits other product sales. Despite some high profile recent seizures, the Revenue is only scratching the surface of the illegal cigarette smuggling rackets."

A report by Italian-based researchers Transcrime last week found that Ireland has the third highest rate of tobacco smuggling in Europe, estimated at between 13% and 29% of all tobacco products. Earlier this month, some 10.4 million cigarettes were seized by customs officers at Dublin Port after arriving on a container shipped from Rotterdam.



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