October 13, 2010 Illegal cigarette dealers are now selling their smuggled goods door-to-door in housing estates. In some areas the sellers are delivering flyers in housing estates with "price lists" for the illegally branded cigarettes and a mobile telephone number to contact to make a purchase, according to a lobby group set up to fight the black market for tobacco.
Prices advertised vary from €40 (55.93 USD) for 200 'John Player Blue' to €28 (39.14 USD) for 200 'Gold Classic'. A flyer found in Clara, Co Offaly, claimed to offer the "cheapest fags in Ireland", with 200 'John Player Blue' available for €37. Similar products bought legally in a shop would cost between €95 (132.79 USD) and €99 (138.38 USD) for 200 cigarettes.
It was recently revealed that children as young as 10 were being used by criminal gangs to sell smuggled cigarettes at markets but now, according to Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS), leaflets are being posted through letter-boxes advertising cigarettes at less than half-price.
Ireland has the highest rate of tobacco taxation in the EU. This makes Ireland, despite the small size of the market, a target for the smuggling of illegitimate products into the State. Illegal importation of tobacco products represents a loss to the Exchequer and the availability of cheap products undermines health policy which aims to reduce the level of smoking. Ireland - highest tobacco prices in the EU..RAS estimates that the State is losing out on up to €500m in taxes every year because of the import and sale of illicit cigarettes, while the trade sector lost up to €700m last year.
As many as one in every three cigarettes smoked in Ireland now comes into the country illegally -- mainly from China -- through criminal gangs. Organized crime gangs are turning to illegally manufactured cigarettes -- known as 'cheap whites' -- to boost their profits in the smuggling trade. Cheap whites are cigarette brands that have been manufactured specially for the black market and, along with counterfeits, produce bigger profit margins for the gangsters.
Overall last year, the Revenue seized 218 million cigarettes and 10,450kg of tobacco, with a combined worth of €95m (132.7m USD). In the first half of this year, officers confiscated 113 million cigarettes and 1,860kg of tobacco, with a combined value of €48.8m (68.2m USD).
Initiatives to slow the smuggling effort include profiling of passengers and freight into the country to identify smugglers; the establishment of a "tobacco hotline"; national "blitz-style" operations; the purchase of scanning and other detection technologies; "and learning from best-practice internationally".
Ireland - modest penalty for cigarette smuggling...
References: Criminals going door-to-door to sell the 'cheapest fags in country', by Conor Kane, Independent.ie, 10/11/2010; Gangs smuggle illegal tobacco to boost profits by Tom Brady Security Editor, Independent.ie, 10/4/2010.
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