We note the calls from a number of non – governmental agencies for the Irish Government to mimic the gimmicky policy announcements of the beleaguered UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and increase on an incremental basis the legal age at which people could purchase tobacco products.
Aside from the lack of evidence that such a policy, were it to somehow be implemented, would be effective as a Public Health measure, the primary beneficiaries would be those dealing with smuggled tobacco. According to the official IPSOS MRBI 2022 Annual survey carried out for Revenue and the Department of Health, a staggering 30% of all cigarettes consumed in the Republic were not sold in Irish stores and did not contribute to the Exchequer.
A policy to reduce consumption of tobacco needs to be mindful that I’ll- conceived measures such as this one would have disastrous consequences for shop workers attempting to police a measure while it would not have any similar restrictions for those persons bringing Duty Free and purchases from other Member States once excises were paid in those countries. This cohort represents 13% of all tobacco consumed, up by more than 50% on pre-Covid statistics.
Unless the State shuts down the growing supply chain that it has permitted to develop over the past decades, they will be penalising law-abiding retailers selling a legitimate product while assisting thugs and criminals to enrich themselves.
There are a range of measures that the State can and should implement to further its efforts.