The alarming spread of illegal contraband discount Marlboro cigarettes is to blame for hundreds of job losses in the retail sector this year, reports the Kilkenny Advertiser. Worldwide contraband tobacco is detrimental to society, robbing governments of valuable tax dollars, harming retailer profitability and illegally putting tobacco products in the hands of underage consumers.
Kevin Browne, owner of the Happy Times store in Kilkenny, told the news source that the retail sector had lost close to 700 jobs over the past 12 months because of contraband cigarettes.
Browne also sits on the Executive Council of Retailers Against Smuggling, a national retail organization in Ireland that is fighting the illicit trade. According to recent survey by the group of its 3,000 retail members, 78% of those surveyed believe the illegal trade had increased in the past year, while 72% say that illegal cigarettes are widely available in their communities.
Browne said that the group has called on Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to introduce a minimum fine for cigarette smuggling and not to raise cigarette excise tax in the forthcoming budget.
“We feel that a minimum fine would deter cigarette smugglers and the Minister has already said any increase in excise will push consumers towards the illegal trade. We are calling on him again to make sure that there is no price rise in the forthcoming budget and to protect retail jobs both in Kilkenny and nationally,” Browne said.
According to Retailers Against Smuggling, international smugglers now view Ireland as a “paradise” for their trade, given the high price of cigarettes in the country compared to the rest of Europe. As excise taxes on cigarettes continue to rise, it increases the incentive for customers to turn to illegal products sold on the black market. Current penalties handed out to smugglers and illicit traders are weak and do not serve as a strong enough deterrent.
Smugglers sold 1.6 billion cigarettes in Ireland in 2010 alone, which means that one out of every three cigarettes is bought from the illegal black market and not in legitimate stores.